Texas AG sues businesses for price gouging during Harvey

Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed suit against three companies for price gouging during hurricane Harvey.

The office said expect to see more as investigators have received 3,320 complaints.

Photo evidence shows one station price-gouging at $6.99 for a gallon of gas. This is an example flooded into the attorney general's office during Hurricane Harvey.

"So it's disappointing right? I think in Texas we take pride in the fact that we help each other out,” said Consumer Protection Division Chief Paul Singer.

From gas to groceries Consumer Protection Division Chief Paul Singer said the office received more than 3,300 complaints.

"$30, $40, $50 dollars for a case of water,” said Singer. “We've seen complaints for where people were selling milk for $10 dollars for a half-gallon."

On Tuesday the Attorney General’s Office filed suit against three businesses. Robstown Enterprises, owner of the Best Western Plus Tropic Inn, is accused of charging three times the normal room rate.

Bains Brothers, owners of Texaco gas stations in the Dallas-area are accused of charging $6.99 for gas while displaying signs with prices in the $3-4 dollar range. Receipts for the Carrollton store show the price for unleaded plus was going for $2.79 at 5 a.m. on August 31st. By 11:19 a.m. unleaded was $4.99. At 11:36 a.m., unleaded was $5.99.

Encinal Fuel Stop, a Chevron brand station outside Laredo is accused of charging $8.99 and $9.99 a gallon.

"That can't be explained away by a simple market fluctuation,” said Singer.

Singer said the majority of the offenders are in the Dallas area--far from where Harvey made landfall.

Technology is making the cases pretty easy to prove.

"Normally you get a consumer complaint and we have to take the allegations as true and then go to the company to figure out what happened. Here we have photo proof. We have people out there taking pictures of gas signs, of their receipts of the fuel pumps. That's really helpful to us in our enforcement work,” said Singer.

Singer says the three lawsuits are just the tip of the iceberg.

"There is a lot of information for us to go through and we're going to make sure that companies that engage in illegal price-gouging are going to be held accountable,” said Singer.

To report price gouging call 1-800-621-0508 or email consumeremergency@oag.texas.gov or file a complaint online here:  https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/cpd/file-a-consumer-complaint.