RICHARDSON (CBSDFW.COM) – Gas station owners are preparing to fight back after the Texas Attorney General’s office says many of them price gouged after Hurricane Harvey.
One-hundred and twenty-seven gas stations were given violation notices Wednesday, more than three quarters of them in North Texas.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, gas station owners were warned about the consequences of price gouging. Not just by the Attorney General’s office, but by the Texas Food and Fuel Association. President Paul Hardin believes the majority heeded that warning – and even took a hit to their pocketbooks.
“They were selling at below cost for fear of being accused of price gouging,” he says. “The price was going up and up and up, and they just didn’t want to put the price of that of what the market was actually bearing because they would be fried by consumers.”
The president of Fuel City says his Mesquite location capped at $2.89 and lost money – yet made the AG’s list, which named businesses that charged $3.99 or more a gallon.
“At times our cost was actually closer to three dollars or a little over three dollars. And we never raised prices that high,” says Joseph Bickham.
Hardin says many of the complaints are made anonymously or are reported from social media posts. There was also confusion when some stations posted 9.99 – meant as a sign they were out of fuel. Hardin says anyone who gouged should be punished. But because owners document their prices, he believes the number accused – 127 – will go down.
“I think you’ll probably see that number drop drastically, probably below 30 would be my estimate,” says Hardin.
The Attorney General’s office says they are looking into the 9.99 confusion. The penalty for price gouging is up to $20,000 per violation.