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Texas gas stations to refund customers for Hurricane Harvey price gouging

Staff Writer | July 7, 2018
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced that dozens of gas stations will refund Texans who were charged exorbitant prices for gasoline last summer during Hurricane Harvey.
Texas gas stations
America   48 businesses will pay $166,592
AG Paxton said that his Consumer Protection Division finalized settlements with 48 Texas gas stations accused of price gouging during the state of disaster declared for Hurricane Harvey, which made land on Aug. 25, 2017 at southern coast of Mexico Gulf.

According to news release from the AG office, under separate agreements, 48 businesses will pay $166,592 in civil restitution to refund Texans who were charged exorbitant or excessive prices for gasoline.

Most of the businesses that agreed to these Assurances of Voluntary Compliance (AVCs) operate gas stations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, about 390 km north of downtown Houston.

"At the outset of Harvey, I made it clear that my office would not tolerate price gouging of Texans by anyone looking to profit from the hurricane," Paxton said.

Harvey blew ashore on Aug. 25 as the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in more than 50 years, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and damaging some 200,000 houses in a path of destruction that stretched for more than 480 km. The Houston area was hit by severe flooding.

As Hurricane Harvey was approaching the Texas coast last year, Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster activating a provision of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act that made price gouging illegal.

In the wake of the hurricane, the attorney general's office received thousands of complaints about inflated prices at gasoline pumps.

All 48 gas stations that settled with the attorney general's office charged 3.99 dollars or higher for a gallon of gasoline or diesel. Some stations allegedly charged as much as 8.99 dollars for gas at the time of the declared disaster. As part of the settlements, each gas station agreed not to price gouge in the future and to pay restitution to consumers.

Meanwhile, under the AVCs announced on Thursday, each station owner agreed that going forward, they would not increase their prices by more than 25 percent during a disaster unless it was in response to actual increases in their fuel costs. This financial relief will establish a clear line for businesses going forward to ensure that they do not engage in illegal price gouging following another disaster.