FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Customers have filed thousands of complaints about price gouging in Texas since the start of the pandemic.
But a North Texas company has angered customers both locally and nationally.
Dozens of customers have filed complaints about Cheaper Than Dirt, an online firearm and ammunition seller based in Fort Worth.
“I was looking at getting about a thousand rounds of their .223 ammo, which is normally around $300, but their price was $1,000,” said Kyle Wiggs, who filed a price gouging complaint.
Customers noted several listings doubled in price last month. Certain items jumped from $26 to $52 and even from $470 to $900.
On its Facebook page, the store issued a statement that partially read, “Those who did not plan….will run into limited supplies, higher prices, and stress.”
“I was like ‘oh no, this has got to be reported to someone,'” said customer Chris Tindell.
Between March 16 and March 18, the Texas Attorney General’s Office received reports of stores gouging the cost of items like bottled water, milk and toilet paper.
During that period, Cheaper than Dirt had amassed 58 price gouging complaints — the most complaints filed against any store during that timeframe.
Several gun owners claimed the company is known for the tactic.
“I want consumers to be aware of what this company is doing,” Tindell said.
“Any time there’s a crisis they’ll increase pricing on ammunition and firearms,” said Duane Cathey, who filed a complaint with the Texas Attorney General’s Office. “They’ll double the pricing, sometimes triple it. ”
Similar complaints emerged following the 2008 presidential election and the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012.
But some customers said this time is different. That’s because Texans are currently under a state of emergency.
“I think it should be considered a safety essential and be protected from price-gouging,” Wiggs said.
Price gouging laws kick in during a state of emergency to prevent excessive pricing of fuel, food, medicine lodging, building materials, construction tools or other necessities.
But are firearms and ammunition considered necessities? We asked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
“It’s always a question, but I could argue that guns and ammo would be part of that price gouging,” Paxton said.
But in the same interview, Paxton said the issue is also open to “interpretation,” despite the fact that he is in charge of that interpretation as the state’s chief legal officer.
“Every case has its own facts and we, there is some discretion as to figuring out whether we believe it is really price gouging or just normal markets,” Paxton said.
But some customers said their interpretation is that a local company is capitalizing on a crisis.
“It’s not the Texas way, it’s not the American way,” Paxton said. “It’s upsetting, really.”
A spokesperson for Cheaper than Dirt declined to comment.