Texas AG's office warns against price gouging in wake of declared COVID-19 disaster

As Texans are taking precautions against exposure to COVID-19, Attorney General Ken Paxton is warning that state law prohibits price gouging in the wake of a declared disaster.

Since Governor Abbott declared a state of disaster, the Attorney General’s Office has received 1,500 reports of price gouging. The majority of the cases reported include water, sanitizer, wipes and paper goods. 

Marc Rylander, Director of Communications for the Attorney General’s office, said retailers have to adjust and it is normal to see normal price adjustments. 

RELATED: Paxton orders healthcare professionals, facilities to stop all "medically unnecessary" surgeries, procedures

But normal adjustments in these circumstances wouldn't be considered the huge spikes that many have been reporting. 

“The accounts we’re hearing is a case of water that was $3.99 is now 27 dollars,” said Rylander. 

With price gouging, Rylander said spikes come when there's an emergency and people are taking advantage of supplies needed. But, added that overall, compared to the past, the numbers they're seeing -- are relatively low. There have been only 1,500 hundred cases during COVID-19, compared to 6,000 cases during Hurricane Harvey. 

RELATED: Texas declares public health disaster, closes restaurant dining rooms and schools

“We're seeing this beautiful picture where Texans are helping of each other not taking advantage of each other,” Rylander said. 

But, he said it's still happening and if you feel this has happened to you - or see it - to report it and the AG's office will make sure it is taken care of. 

“If we find that someone is truly price gauging, we will send them a letter telling them to stop and if they don't, then they will be prosecuted to the extent of the law,” Rylander said. 

On Thursday, Abbott issued a public health disaster, the first in Texas since 1901. The executive orders, which take effect at midnight Friday, March 20 and go through midnight on Friday, April 3, will bring the state in line with CDC guidelines to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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The public health disaster orders schools to be closed statewide until at least April 3. The disaster also orders a ban on dine-in eating and gathering in groups of more than 10 as the state ramps up efforts to battle the coronavirus. Abbott's order also will shut down gyms and bars. It also bans visits to nursing and retirement homes unless there is a critical need.


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