AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas attorney general has accused more than 100 fuel retailers of price gouging during the state of disaster declared for Hurricane Harvey.
The attorney general's office received about 5,500 price-gouging complaints related to Hurricane Harvey, with many including evidence such as photos and receipts. The state’s Consumer Protection Division has sent violation notices to 127 Texas businesses, all accused of charging $3.99 or higher for a gallon of gasoline or diesel. Many are located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
According to the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA), it is illegal for businesses to charge exorbitant prices for fuel or other necessities during a declared disaster. The law authorizes the attorney general to sue offenders for price gouging and seek refunds for consumers, as well as to enforce civil penalties of up to $20,000 per violation. There are also extra fines of up to $250,000 for incidents involving a consumer who is 65 years or older.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott first declared states of disaster in some Texas counties on Aug. 23. As recently as Oct. 20, he had renewed his declaration in 60 counties.
“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 Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in a 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.”
The violation notifications follow two lawsuits the attorney general’s office filed in September against two fuel retailers—one in the Dallas area and one outside of Laredo—for price gouging. Those cases cite prices as high as $9.99 per gallon.