Texas AG Going After 127 Businesses for Gas Price Gouging During Hurricane Harvey
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is targeting 127 businesses in the state that allegedly price gouged during Hurricane Harvey by raising gas prices to $3.99 or higher per gallon.
Paxton announced that the Consumer Protection Business has sent notices of violation to the businesses, reported the Houston Chronicle.
"At the outset of Harvey, I made it clear that my office would not tolerate price gouging of vulnerable Texans by any individuals or businesses looking to profit from the hurricane," said Paxton in a written statement. "We've given 127 alleged offenders an opportunity to resolve these issues with our office or face possible legal action for violating state law. Our investigation of other businesses into price gouging remains ongoing."
Price gouging can carry civil penalties of up to $20,000 per violation and up to $250,000 per violation for victims over the age of 65 under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
The Attorney General's office stated that many of the businesses that received violation notices are located in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. They may have to pay a fine or issue refunds in order to settle their cases, according to spokeswoman Kayleigh Lovvorn.
Texans made more than 3,000 complaints against gas stations, hotels and grocery stores for price gouging in the weeks following Hurricane Harvey's late August landfall. Many of the complaints were in regards to gas prices in coastal areas and cities that were not directly affected by the hurricane. Texas law prohibits businesses from charging highly inflated prices for necessities when a state of disaster has been declared.
As of Oct. 30, Paxton's office has approximately 5,500 complaints logged in its system. The increase is due to consumers reporting excessive pricing related to repairs or rebuilding of homes damaged by flooding.
Prior to Harvey making landfall, Paxton stated that his office would go after businesses that sought to take advantage of people affected by the storm, according to the report. Three civil lawsuits have been filed against businesses to date. Issuing a notice of violation is the first legal step taken against a business, and could lead to a lawsuit if it is not settled, Lovvorn said.