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Texas AG Goes After Price Gouging During Hurricane Harvey

by Countable | 9.13.17

What’s the story?

Last week Countable asked you whether price gouging during a disaster was un-American or simply the free market at work. You all had a lot of strong feelings about it, and it looks like the Texas Attorney General does, too. He has filed suit against three companies for price gouging in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Why does it matter?

When disaster strikes and basic necessities become a matter of life and death, some states have stepped in and created laws to protect consumers. Texas has strict laws that prohibit charging exorbitant prices for necessities like food, drinking water, fuel and clothing during a declared disaster. Now, McClatchy reports that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is prosecuting two local gas companies and a hotelier for violating those laws:

"It’s unconscionable that any business would take advantage of Texans at their most vulnerable – those who are displaced from their homes, have limited resources, and are in desperate need of fuel, shelter and the basic necessities of life. Texas has tough price gouging laws, and my office will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute cases arising from Hurricane Harvey."

One company, Bains Brothers, is accused of charging $6.99 a gallon for unleaded regular gas despite signs at the station advertising it for $3-$4. Another station affiliated with Chevron allegedly was charging $9.99 a gallon.

A local hotel is accused of charging three times their normal room rate the weekend that Hurricane Harvey hit the area.

The state of Florida, which bore the brunt of Hurricane Irma’s landfall on the mainland, also has a law prohibiting price hiking of essentials during an official emergency. According to McClatchy, the Florida attorney general’s office received over 8,000 price gouging complaints over the last week, though there’s been no word if the office will pursue a case, like in Texas.

What do you think?

Do you support laws preventing price gouging during natural disasters or not? Were you in one of the areas hit by Hurricane Harvey or Hurricane Irma? Did you see price gouging happen? What do you hope happens with the Texas suit?

Tell us in the comments what you think, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: brownpau via Flickr / Creative Commons)

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Leave a comment
(41)
  • NoHedges
    09/13/2017
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    Well those oil billionaires certainly don't need any FEMA aide. They are obviously out to collect from the working poor. Trickle down, corporate tax breaks fuel ⛽️ our economy. Give me a break, it is a lie❗️Fix the potholes in the middle class, pay those working in the service industry, to include healthcare and education, a respectable wage and you will see trickle down 💦💦💧💧 at work.

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  • Jose
    09/14/2017
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    Big fan of Free Market forces but like anything that man interferes with, there are loopholes. These loopholes should be prevented within reason, especially in times of disasters and catastrophes. Would love to have the free market just weed them out but in actuality people sometimes can't travel additionally 2-3 miles to find the goods they need NOW. This is why intervening ONLY in disaster price gouging should be prevented. Other normal times the free market will work but it only takes advantage of those in need when catastrophe strikes.

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  • Matei
    09/13/2017
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    Take a look around. Price gouging happens all around us all the time. To face this issue we must first accept this issue plagues us daily.

    Like (5)
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  • Diane
    09/13/2017
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    What do u expect from republicans?No morals, no conscience, no regulations.. just greed & gluttony, guns god & gays, u know the drill with republicans, any crude & rude republican anywhere.

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  • Ruth
    09/13/2017
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    This is NOT free enterprise, it price gouging at a time when people cannot afford any extra costs. The US currently has so much petroleum in storage we don't know what to do with it. These businesses that exhorted these prices must be penalized!

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  • KansasTamale
    09/14/2017
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    This is Illegal & Inhumane. Prosecute them.

    Like (1)
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  • Yo
    09/14/2017
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    Good!!

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  • MIKAL
    09/14/2017
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    I would hope the owners & managers of the offending businesses are put in jail ... AND their assets seized. Their is NO mitigating circumstance for GREED.

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  • Denise
    09/14/2017
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    Price gouging? Free market!? The health care industry has been doing it to us for years. Maybe the answer to provideing affordable health care is to look at that end of the supply and demand chain.

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  • I.Got.an.Idea...
    09/14/2017
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    Me....Likey...Likey....

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  • operaman
    09/13/2017
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    The Texas AG and Florida AG sent out an appeal to merchants in affected areas not to price gouge. So Whoa into to those who practice deceit. But I shall be open for a fair tribunal based on cost. Supply and demand must be considered.

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  • Ted
    09/13/2017
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    Exxon, imagine that

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  • Katharine
    09/14/2017
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    Price gouging should not be allowed in times of disasters. I'm glad that the Attorney General stepped in. So often it is situations such as this where our government has to step on.

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  • MarkYukhimets
    09/15/2017
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    It's should be cheaper and more available in areas that now recovering and they decided they need to raise prices, it's should be investigated and penalties should be paid in triple back to those who are already in need, those companies who taking this as advantage should publicly apologize and pay compensation

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  • Claude
    09/17/2017
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    There are many factors that effect increased price of fuel and Luther produces after disaster. This should be determined by free market and State laws

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  • August
    09/15/2017
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    It is Texas law, so go after them. Can we add airlines to the list too?

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  • Brad
    09/18/2017
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    Good!!!!!

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  • Kristan
    09/19/2017
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    No price gouging ever and stiff penalties for all offender with special "peak" penalties for price gouging during disasters (natural or manmade).

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  • Timothy
    09/14/2017
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    Jake has the right idea. Boycott the bastards. Compile and publish a list of the offenders. Keep it with you so you be certain that they don't get another dime from you.

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  • Jarott
    09/19/2017
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    It would only make sense (as in be an acceptable excuse) if the distribution channels were messed-up from their normal, smooth operations. Time is literally money in the world we live in, and it has been that way for ages. If environmental conditions (economic, geographical, congested roads, etc.) disrupt this, then sometimes prices can increase if the business must ABSOLUTELY have that product(s) there to sell. That might mean making a truck driver go out of their way to deliver it, hell maybe even on personal time. That's hella generous if they do something like that. From there, since the shopkeeper likely had to pay more to make sure that his customers would be able to ready for some emergency, they're going to want to try and recoup. That's a normal thing to do in that scenario. CHANCES ARE, these people are actually assholes because humans are still for the most part incapable of higher level communication and sustainable, appreciable thoughts for one another.

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