AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) – As residents from the Gulf Coast were fleeing inland to escape the threat of Hurricane Harvey, many complained about potential price gouging. Now, three businesses are facing lawsuits as a result, including one from the DFW area.
Attorney General Ken Paxton filed lawsuits Tuesday against Robstown Enterprises, Bains Brothers and Encinal Fuel Stop for allegedly engaging in unlawful price gouging as evacuees were seeking shelter, fuel and other essential items under the threat of Harvey.
The law prohibits businesses from overcharging for necessities — like water and fuel — during declared disaster times.
“It’s unconscionable that any business would take advantage of Texans at their most vulnerable — those who are displaced from their homes, have limited resources and are in desperate need of fuel, shelter and the basic necessities of life,” Paxton said in a statement. “Texas has tough price gouging laws, and my office will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute cases arising from Hurricane Harvey.”
Robstown Enterprises, based in Robstown, just west of Corpus Christi, had been doing business as Best Western Plus Tropic Inn. They were allegedly charging three times the normal room rate during the weekend that Harvey hit the Texas coast. Best Western has since ended the business partnership.
Bains Brothers owns six Texaco gas stations in the DFW area, across Dallas, Richardson and Arlington. Two of their locations were allegedly charging $6.99 for a gallon of regular unleaded gas on August 31, while still displaying signs that advertised the price as being between $3.00 and $4.00 per gallon.
Encinal Fuel Stop is a Chevron gas station located just outside of Laredo. They were allegedly charging people between $8.99 and $9.99 for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline on August 31.
Businesses found guilty of price gouging could face a penalty of up to $20,000 for each violation, and an additional $250,000 for incidents involving victims age 65 and older.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office has received more than 3,000 complaints about potential price gouging during Hurricane Harvey, and is continuing to investigate these claims. Texans who believe that they might have been scammed should contact the Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-621-0508, or get in touch through email or online.