Four Texas gas stations in the greater Dallas-Ft. Worth area have been ordered to reimburse consumers who purchased gas at these locations in the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Harvey last August. The station owners are accused of price gouging, or unethically capitalizing on the chaos created by the hurricane, by raising prices on gas to a level much higher than is considered reasonable or fair.
Hurricane Harvey has tied Hurricane Katrina as the costliest tropical cyclone on record, causing in excess of $125 million in damage. In the chaotic lead-up and aftermath to the destructive hurricane, businesses like these four gas stations attempted to profit off of the desperation of residents trying to flee from – or brace for – the catastrophic weather conditions.
Price Gouging and Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Law
17.46(b) of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act prohibits price gouging after the Governor has declared a disaster, specifying that these practices constitute “a false, misleading or deceptive act.” Practices that fall under the purview of the law include:
- Selling or leasing fuel, food, or medicine or other necessity at an exorbitant or excessive price
- Demanding an exorbitant or excessive price in connection with the sale or lease of fuel, food, medicine, or other necessities
‘Price gouging’ can be prosecuted if, during a disaster, a gas station charges more than 125% of the average price of fuel for the previous 30 days. The law makes an exception in cases where the business can prove that price hikes are “attributable to additional fuel supply costs,” such as transportation.
Violators of the law can be fined $20,000 per incident. This number increases more than tenfold to $250,000 for each instance of price gouging against a person over the age of 65.
Affected Customers Have Until September 10th to File Claims
The settlement agreements stipulate that all four gas stations must refund the difference between the actual price paid and the 30 day average to customers who used a credit or debit card to pay for gas. Additionally, each station must pay $300 to the state for each customer who used cash to buy gas during the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. The state Attorney General’s office is accepting claims for reimbursement from customers who paid in cash until September 10, 2018.
Contact a Deceptive Trade Practices Litigation Firm
Deceptive trade practices like price gouging during an emergency are damaging to consumer trust, and are demonstrations of callous greed. Businesses engaging in these practices knowingly inflate prices during disasters to profit off of people’s needs and desperation. Unfortunately, many Texas consumers are unaware that they have rights under the Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act, and become unknowing victims of exploitation.
If you believe you have been a victim of deceptive trade practices, an experienced Texas litigation firm can help you to recuperate up to three times your requested economic damages. At David K. Wilson & Associates, we are well versed in negotiations, pre-litigation settlements, and bringing deceptive trade practice cases to trial. Contact our offices today at (903) 870-9050 for a free consultation about your case.