Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is going after businesses for unlawful price gouging while Texans were in need during Hurricane Harvey's devastation.
These lawsuits come as almost 3,000 complaints of price gouging in Texas - and almost 500 complaints in Tarrant County - have been reported to the state, according to records from the Attorney General's office.
Under Texas law, vendors are not allowed to charge exorbitant prices for items people need during a disaster - items like water, food, clothing and fuel.
First reported by the Arlington Voice, the Bains Brothers-owned station at 2809 Northwest Green Oaks Boulevard had raised its prices and reportedly demanded cash-only payments with no receipts given.
The lawsuit claims that Robstown Enterprises, while doing business with Best Western Plus Inn., charged three times its normal rate during Hurricane Harvey. Two of the stations allegedly charged $6.99 a gallon for regular unleaded gas on August 31, even while displaying signs with prices in the $3-$4 range.
Consumer complaints about price gouging was making waves across social media channels following Hurricane Harvey. While the petroleum company has previously stated online that it does not condone price gouging, a spokesperson told the Arlington Voice that Bains Brothers has not had its franchise license revoked or received any formal reprimand. The Florida attorney general's office got more than 8,000 complaints of price gauging before the worst of the storm had even hit. Among them is a business formerly operating as a Best Western in Robstown. "Unfortunately, also nearly immediately consumers began contacting the Texas attorney general with reports of excessive and exorbitant pricing".
It's a good thing it wasn't intentional, as the stiff civil penalties for price gouging run $20,000 per violation, and additional six-figure fines can be levied if the victims are senior citizens.