AUSTIN July 5, 2018 ⎯ Attorney General Ken Paxton today announced that his Consumer Protection Division finalized settlements with 48 Texas gas stations accused of price gouging during the state of disaster declared for Hurricane Harvey.
Under separate agreements, 48 businesses will pay $166,592 in civil restitution to refund Texans who were charged exorbitant or excessive prices for gasoline. Most of the businesses that agreed to these Assurances of Voluntary Compliance (AVCs) operate gas stations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
“At the outset of Harvey, I made it clear that my office would not tolerate price gouging of Texans by anyone looking to profit from the hurricane,” Attorney General Paxton said. “The response to Hurricane Harvey showed the incredible generosity of Texans. These settlements should teach the few who take advantage of their fellow residents to follow the law in the future.”
As Hurricane Harvey was approaching the Texas coast last year, Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster activating a provision of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act that makes price gouging illegal. In the wake of the hurricane, the attorney general’s office received thousands of complaints about inflated prices at gasoline pumps. Many Texans emailed photos and receipts as evidence. Investigations are ongoing.
All 48 gas stations that settled with the attorney general’s office charged $3.99 or higher for a gallon of gasoline or diesel. Some stations allegedly charged as much as $8.99 for gas at the time of the declared disaster. As part of the settlements, each gas station agreed not to price gouge in the future and to pay restitution to consumers.
Last September, Attorney General Paxton filed price gouging lawsuits against three businesses, then issued notices of violations to 127 businesses before filing additional lawsuits in November.
Texans who believe they were victims of price gouging at the hands of any of the gas stations settling with the state should fill out and submit a claim form. Claim forms will be accepted until September 10. The amount a consumer will receive as part of this settlement will vary depending on the gallons purchased, the price paid for the gasoline and the amount available in the restitution fund.
In this latest hurricane season, consumers and businesses in Texas are reminded that price gouging is illegal. Under the AVCs announced today, each station owner agreed that going forward, they would not increase their prices by more than 25 percent during a disaster unless it was in response to actual increases in their fuel costs. This financial relief will establish a clear line for businesses going forward to ensure that they do not engage in illegal price gouging following another disaster.
Texans who believe they’ve been scammed or price gouged by any business should call the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Hotline toll-free at (800) 621-0508, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or file a complaint online at https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/cpd/file-a-consumer-complaint.
View a list of the AVCs here: https://bit.ly/2z6HJfb
Access a claim form here: https://bit.ly/2z6IViF