Since Hurricane Harvey rocked Texas, the Texas Attorney General has received hundreds of consumer complaints, many concerning price gouging, Grit Post has learned.

“The Office of the Attorney General currently has received 550 complaints and 225 emails sent to an emergency address set up for consumers, and more are coming in pretty consistently,” Kayleigh Lovvorn, a media relations official at the Texas Attorney General, told Grit Post. “We expect more complaints in the wake of the storm regarding home repair and construction fraud/price gouging.”

“We have received complaints from consumers as well as some of our employees and investigators in the area concerning price gouging happening with hotels, grocers, fuel providers and (most frequently) fresh water. Unfortunately, price gouging like this can be common following natural disasters,” she continued.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told Fox News that while a normal perpetrator of price gouging is slapped with a $20,000 fine, anyone who overcharges a senior citizen on necessary goods will be fined $250,000:

One Houston resident, John McGovern, told Grit Post that a Best Buy on Highway 290 in Cypress was selling packs of bottled water for $42.96 each. He provided Grit Post with the following photo:

“It’s taking advantage of people in need to make easy money playing off fear. Best Buy doesn’t need to sell water at $43 a case. They don’t need the money,” McGovern told Grit Post. “I understand the law of supply and demand and the cost and availability of goods being shipped to an area once a disaster hits. This was before there was a shortage. This is pure greed.”

Under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, price gouging is illegal and the Attorney General has the authority to prosecute any business that price gouges after a disaster has been declared by the governor; however, businesses still engage in the practice.

 

(UPDATE, Aug. 29, 6:13 PM): Best Buy has issued an official apology on behalf of the store shown in the above photo selling water at an inflated price. Click here for details.

(UPDATE, Aug. 30 6:43 PM): Another photo in this article alleging price gouging featured a label that appeared to show the price of a package of bottled water had doubled. We were informed that the label itself was for a different product. We have removed the photo.

 

Ken Klippenstein is Grit Post’s national security reporter. He can be reached on Twitter @kenklippenstein or email: kenneth.klippenstein@gmail.com.

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Comments

  1. In the second picture, it appears as if the water is in the wrong shelf. That price label says “bottled water, 5 gal, $13.99.” That does seem rather high, but it isn’t for that water pictured.

  2. Just saw your article about price gouging going on in Texas. As a resident of Houston, I appreciate it. The Kroger charging $12.99 for a case of Nestle water was a great example. However, the Best Buy example fell short and was misguided. Best Buy doesn’t normally sell cases of water and instead breaks them up into the singles that go into their coolers. Their register can’t sell cases of water so they are just selling the “packs” as multiple singles to the customers coming in. The 1 Liter Smartwater probably retails at $2.50 a piece or in this case $29.98 for 12 units. The 20 oz Dasani retails for $1.79 each or in this case $42.96 for 24 units. Those single prices aren’t unheard of and pretty consistent with the market rate. Hope that helps.

  3. Irresponsible reporting. “Retail cost for bottled water is shockingly high, but unchanged by Harvey” is not as interesting as headline, I guess.

  4. Pricing gouging is big here in Robstown Texas the restaurants are over charging on their food somebody better check this out. We are a small community in nueces county and shouldn’t be happening ..we all work for a living and some of us are just working paycheck to paycheck . Especially right after a hurricane when things are rough right now.

  5. Um… the Kroger picture isn’t price gouging the item is just in the wrong place… being a CVS employee I know too well how customers get caught up on price but aren’t trained to read labels like employees are. In this case there was hardly any water on the shelves at this location (I stay down the street) so they most likely threw the water on the shelves any kind of way to help restock.

  6. I believe instead of selling high price they can just donate water to those who needed. Best Buy is a billion dollar industry and if they willing to help those needed then be it. The owner or CEO should investigate and fired all those involved on this scam. They probably pocket some on the money they scam.

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