Over 5,000 price gouging complaints processed since Harvey

State & Regional

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Representatives for the Office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton say the agency’s Consumer Protection Division has processed more than 5,000 complaints of potential price gouging following Hurricane Harvey.

People from the coastal bend to Dallas felt the financial effects of the storm, in the form of illegal price gouging. Now more than a year since Harvey hit Texas, lawmakers are reviewing the state’s price gouging laws.

It’s defined by Paxton’s office as “selling or leasing fuel, food, medicine or another necessity at an exorbitant or excessive price; or demanding an exorbitant or excessive price in connection with the sale or lease of fuel, food, medicine or another necessity.”

Two members of Paxton’s team provided state lawmakers with an update in a Senate State Affairs hearing Monday, saying their office has recovered more than $180,000 in restitution for affected customers.

“Our goal was to send a strong message to the industry that price gouging was not going to be tolerated,” deputy division chief for consumer protection Kris Kennedy said.

Kennedy and associate deputy attorney general for civil litigation Amanda Cochran-McCall told senators they have also reached more than 50 settlements with business owners who signed paperwork stating they would comply with price gouging laws during future disasters.

Kris Kennedy (left) and Amanda Cochran-McCall (right), leaders in the Texas Attorney General's Office effort to combat price-gouging after disasters, testify before a Senate State Affairs committee on Sept. 10, 2018. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

“This is an important aspect of our enforcement because those agreements all contain injunctions where those who’ve already exhibited behavior showing they’re willing to price gouge and take advantage of Texas citizens at a vulnerable time, that they’re on notice, and they’re agreeing in future disasters how they’re going to behave,” Cochran-McCall said.

“We are drawing a line in the sand in terms of what will be a violation and they’re agreeing to not go to that point,” she added.

The pair also testified that they’re actively pursuing cases, citing five current litigations pending involving four gas stations and a hotel company. Kennedy said the AG’s office received 213 complaints related to hotel issues and expects additional cases involving contractors.

“We have about 227 complaints related to contractor issues,” Kennedy said.

If you think you have been taken advantage of and want prosecutors to review your possible case, you can file a complaint form with the Texas Attorney General’s office.

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