Texas sues Dallas-area gas station operator over Hurricane Harvey price gouging allegations

Source: By Jeff Mosier, Dallas Morning News • Posted: Thursday, September 14, 2017

 Consumer complaints about price gouging were making waves across social media channels following Hurricane Harvey. Now, Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office is taking action against some businesses.

Paxton’s office filed lawsuits Tuesday against three companies — one of them a local gas station owner — alleging price gouging. His office received 3,321 complaints related to Harvey.

A statement from Paxton’s office said Bains Brothers, which appears to own Texaco-branded gas stations in Carrollton, Richardson and Arlington, charged $6.99 a gallon for regular unleaded gasoline at two of its stations on Aug. 31 — a week after Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast. The signs at those stations still displayed prices in the $3 to $4 range while charging the higher price, officials say.

There was no immediate response to the messages The Dallas Morning News left with the company’s owner.

“It’s unconscionable that any business would take advantage of Texans at their most vulnerable — those who are displaced from their homes, have limited resources, and are in desperate need of fuel, shelter and the basic necessities of life,” Paxton said in a written statement.

The aftermath of Harvey — mostly flooding — shut down about one-quarter of the nation’s refining capacity. That led to decreased gas supplies in some areas besides triggering some panic buying that created temporary shortages. Many Dallas-Fort Worth area stations ran out of gasoline, and prices spiked.

The two other companies sued are:

— Best Western Plus Tropic Inn in Robstown, west of Corpus Christi, which is alleged to have charged triple its regular rate the weekend Harvey struck the Gulf Coast, according to state officials. Paxton’s office said that “Best Western has since ended its relationship” with Robstown Enterprises, which owns the hotel.

— Encinal Fuel Stop, a Chevron-branded gas station near Laredo, is alleged to have charged as much as $9.99 a gallon for regular unleaded on Aug. 31, according to the attorney general’s office.

Taking food/water after #Harvey = looting.
Charging $9.99/gallon for gas = capitalism. pic.twitter.com/6Q4rK4LDbP

— Mark Elliott (@markmobility) September 2, 2017

Messages left at the Encinal Fuel Stop and the Tropic Inn were not immediately returned.

The civil penalties are up to $20,000 for each violation and an additional $250,000 when victims are 65 or older.