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Price Gouging During A Disaster Is Illegal

 The Travis County Attorney’s Office is your local resource for information on potential illegal price gouging during a disaster.

Price gouging during a declared emergency, such as the one Texans are currently experiencing with the severe unprecedented winter weather disaster, is ILLEGAL.

Price gouging is defined by the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices – Consumer Protection Act as:

(1) Selling or leasing fuel, food, medicine, lodging, building materials, construction tools, 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, lodging, building materials, construction tools, or another necessity.

IMPORTANT Note about high prices:

A “high priced” item is not necessarily the same as price gouging.  Businesses often offer the same item at different prices.

For “price gouging” to occur, a disaster or state of emergency must be declared by either the Governor of the state of Texas or the President of the United States. Texas is currently in a declared state of emergency. If a business has raised the price of fuel, food, medicine, lodging, building materials, construction tools, or another necessity to an exorbitant or excessive amount, this is “price gouging” and it is illegal.

What You Can Do:

Respectfully raise the issue with the business. Take photographs and hold onto your receipts if you have any. If you are unable to resolve the matter on your own, submit a complaint to our office. 

Prepare Your Complaint and File It with the Travis County Attorney’s Office:

Before you file your complaint with us, please take a moment to make sure you have all the necessary information in order to properly submit your complaint.  The more details you are able to provide will allow us to effectively review and act upon your complaint.  To file a complaint please contact the Travis County Attorney at [email protected]. Or you can call 512-854-1289.

Important details include:

  • Name and email address or phone number of Reportee
  • The name of the business you are filing a complaint against
  • The full address of the business including the zip code
  • The name(s) of individuals you spoke with at the business
  • A brief but detailed description of your complaint
  • Date of transaction or occurrence
  • Amount of item
  • Receipt or picture of item and price if available
  • How you attempted to resolve the dispute

Your Complaint Is Public:

Complaints filed with the County Attorney’s office are open records. This means any member of the public may file an open records request and view your complaint.

What We Cannot Do:

  • We cannot serve as your personal lawyer
  • We cannot file lawsuits on your behalf or on the behalf of any individual consumer in Travis County
  • We cannot bring forth criminal charges for price gouging or other deceptive and illegal trade practices
  • We cannot provide legal counsel or interpret the law for you or anyone else

What We Can Do:

  • Receive consumer complaints and review them to identify illegal activity
  • Send cease and desist letters
  • File civil lawsuits in the public interest for injunctive relief, restitution, and possible civil penalties ranging from not more than $10,000 per violation; and if the consumer is 65 years of age or older when the act or practice occurred, an additional amount of not more than $250,000

What Happens Next:

Upon filing your complaint, the County Attorney’s Office will review it.  We use these complaints to monitor trends and take action when appropriate and in the public interest.  Please note that submitting a complaint does not mean that our office represents you in any legal capacity or proceeding.  The Office of the Travis County Attorney does not represent anyone in an individual capacity and instead, files suit only when appropriate and when needed to protect the public interest. 

You will receive a confirmation email once your complaint is successfully submitted.  However, this does not mean that a case or investigation is open with the County Attorney’s Office.

Complaints About Price Gouging:

If you have a complaint or concern about sellers, please email your complaint with sufficient details as described above  to [email protected].

If your complaint pertains to an internet seller, please contact the Attorney General Office Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-621-0508.

 

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Street Address

314 West 11th Street
Room 300
Austin, TX 78701
Map

Mailing Address

PO Box 1748
Austin, TX 78767

Phone

(512) 854-9415

Fax

(512) 854-9316

For Questions, email TCAOINFO

 

TAX RATE: TRAVIS COUNTY ADOPTED A TAX RATE THAT WILL RAISE MORE TAXES FOR MAINTENANCE AND OPERATIONS THAN LAST YEAR’S TAX RATE. THE TAX RATE WILL EFFECTIVELY BE RAISED BY 3.5 PERCENT AND WILL RAISE TAXES FOR MAINTENANCE AND OPERATIONS ON A $100,000 HOME BY APPROXIMATELY $10.39.

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