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:
— Fox News (@FoxNews) August 26, 2017
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.