Price gouging is illegal, and the Office of the Attorney General has authority to prosecute any business that engages in price gouging after a disaster has been declared by the governor. The attorney general has issued stern warnings about price gouging to businesses in times of disaster, but you should still be on your guard.
§17.46(b) of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act provides that it is a false, misleading or deceptive act or practice to take advantage of a disaster declared by the Governor under Chapter 418, Government Code, by:
1 Selling or leasing fuel, food, medicine or another necessity at an exorbitant or excessive price; or
2 Demanding an exorbitant or excessive price in connection with the sale or lease of fuel, food, medicine or another necessity.
Sustained high gasoline prices have prompted price gouging complaints. A number of factors contribute to the current high cost of gasoline. The cost of crude oil is the primary one. The price at the pump also includes how much it costs to deliver the oil the refineries, the refining cost, distribution cost, taxes, and the retail station’s operating cost.
When storms like Hurricane Katrina and Rita damage the Gulf Coast’s refining capacity, prices can rise even higher.
In most cases the current price at the pump is not due to price gouging. However we are prepared to act quickly if gas prices in a Governor declared disaster area spike beyond what the normal market forces set.
If you feel that you are being unfairly charged for goods or services such as drinking water, food, batteries, generators gasoline or towing, raise the issue of price gouging with the provider. Speak to them respectfully but be frank. If you are unable to resolve the matter, file a complaint with our office.