Texas Gas Stations Settle Hurricane Harvey Price Gouging Allegations
AUSTIN, Texas — Within days of Hurricane Harvey barreling down on Texas this past August, several convenience store and gas station companies rolled up their sleeves to help in the relief efforts.
However, not all stories coming out of the sector were good. Several gas stations faced allegations of price gouging in the wake of the Category 4 storm, which made landfall in the state's refinery-rich coast.
On July 5, state Attorney General Ken Paxton said the state's Consumer Protection Division finalized settlements with 48 Texas gas stations accused of price gouging during the state of disaster declared for Hurricane Harvey.
Under separate agreements, 48 businesses will pay $166,592 in civil restitution to refund Texans who were charged excessive prices for gasoline. Most of the businesses that agreed to these Assurances of Voluntary Compliance (AVCs) operate gas stations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, according to Paxton's office.
"At the outset of Harvey, I made it clear that my office would not tolerate price gouging of Texans by anyone looking to profit from the hurricane," Paxton said. "The response to Hurricane Harvey showed the incredible generosity of Texans. These settlements should teach the few who take advantage of their fellow residents to follow the law in the future."
As the storm approached the Texas coast in late August, Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster — triggering a provision of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act that makes price gouging illegal.
However, after the storm the state attorney general's office received thousands of complaints about inflated prices at the pump. Many motorists emailed photos and receipts to go along with their complaints, according to Paxton's office, and investigations continue.
All 48 gas stations that settled with the attorney general's office charged $3.99 or higher for a gallon of gasoline or diesel. Some stations allegedly charged as much as $8.99 for gas at the time of the declared disaster. As part of the settlements, each gas station agreed not to price gouge in the future and to pay restitution to consumers.
Under the AVCs, each station owner agreed that going forward, they would not increase their prices by more than 25 percent during a disaster unless it was in response to actual increases in their fuel costs.
In September, Paxton filed price gouging lawsuits against three businesses, then issued notices of violations to 127 businesses before filing additional lawsuits in November.
Texans who believe they were victims of price gouging at any of the gas stations settling with the state should fill out and submit a claim form. Claim forms will be accepted until Sept. 10. The amount a consumer will receive as part of this settlement will vary depending on the gallons purchased, the price paid for the gasoline and the amount available in the restitution fund, according to the attorney general's office.