Friendly Reminder From Texas Attorney General: Price Gouging Is Illegal
I frankly can't believe that people have to be told not to try to take advantage of one another during times of crisis, but humans are flawed, so here we are.
"Any person or business selling goods must be aware that they are prohibited by law from engaging in price gouging if they unreasonably raise the cost of necessary supplies at any point during a declared disaster," said Attorney General Paxton. "My office will work aggressively to prevent disaster scams and stands ready to prosecute any price-gouger who takes advantage of those taking precautions and looking for safety and supplies."
Price-gougers may be required to reimburse consumers and may be held liable for civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation with an additional penalty of up to $250,000 if the affected consumers are elderly.
If you're one of those that have cleared out shelves of necessary supplies in order to make a buck, shame on you. If you know someone who is hoarding items to get a quick and ridiculous return on investment, make sure they know they are also breaking the law aside from being a horrible human.
On Friday, March 13th, Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of emergency after new cases of COVID-19 were discovered last week. The run on products in Lubbock such as hand sanitizer and toilet paper had already begun prior to the declaration.
Not long after, the shelves began to clear and online ads began to pop-up on marketplaces from individuals trying to sell these products at many times the normal retail value.
I'm well aware that some of the marketplace ads were not to be taken seriously, and also aware that others are serious about taking advantage of the panic by trying to gouge consumers for far more than they would pay if the items were simply left on the store shelf.
Regardless of the intention of the seller, it's an illegal act, and some Texans need to be reminded of that fact before any quarantine or isolation of the masses. It's easy to report these crimes, and I can't think of a better way to keep at least a few prosecutors busy with what looks like impending spare time.
The Attorney General of Texas website has a section on How to Spot and Report Price Gouging. Bottom line, the law in Texas reads as follows and if you don't follow the law with the intent to do harm or not:
§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, or the President by:
- Selling or leasing fuel, food, medicine, lodging, building materials, construction tools, 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, lodging, building materials, construction tools, or another necessity.
Price gouging during a time of crisis has consequences, and if you believe that you have spotted an individual or business who is engaging in price gouging, there's a way to file a complaint with the Texas Attorney General.
For more information on filing a consumer complaint, click here.