The Texas Attorney General's Office announced Tuesday that lawsuits have been filed against three Texas businesses accused of price gouging during Hurricane Harvey. Among them is a business formerly operating as a Best Western in Robstown.
Under Texas law, vendors are not allowed to charge exorbitant prices for items people need during a disaster -- items like water, food, clothing and fuel.
Another necessity during and after Hurricane Harvey was shelter, and according to the Attorney General's Office, the former Robstown Best Western was charging three times its regular rates on the weekend that Harvey made landfall.
Since accusations of price gouging surfaced, Best Western cut ties with the Robstown hotel, which is identified in the lawsuit as Robstown Enterprises, Inc.
"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," Attorney General Paxton said. "Texas has tough price gouging laws, and my office will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute cases arising from Hurricane Harvey."
Two other Texas businesses were also named in the suit -- Bains Brothers and Encinal Fuel Stop.
Bains Brothers owns a couple Texaco-branded gas stations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that allegedly charged $6.99 per gallon for regular unleaded on Aug. 31, even though their signs displayed prices in the $3-4 range.
Encinal Fuel Stop owns a Chevron-branded gas station outside Laredo that allegedly charged $8.99 and $9.99 per gallon for regular unleaded on Aug. 31.
So what happens to a company that's caught price gouging in Texas?
The Attorney General's Office said it carries civil penalties of up to $20,000 for each violation, and an additional fine of up to $250,000 if the incidents were aimed at victims 65 or older.
As of Tuesday morning, the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General's Office has received 3,321 Hurricane Harvey price gouging complaints. If you believe you have been scammed or price gouged, you should call them at 1-800-621-0508, email email@example.com, or file a complaint online at the Attorney General's Office website.