During a disaster, the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act makes it illegal for a company to sell or lease fuel, food, medicine, lodging, building materials, construction tools or any other necessity at an excessive price.
"Unfortunately, there seems to always be people who will take advantage of a crisis situation," said Ryan. "Our office wants you to reach out to us to let us know about a price gouging situation."
The website explains the details you need to provide to file a complaint. It explains the process the county office will use to investigate a complaint and how it will be dealt with if determined that price gouging occurred.
Here's what you need to file a complaint:
- 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
Since the COVID-19 emergency declaration was issued, the County Attorney's Office has received 115 price gouging complaints.
Of those 115 complaints, 35 have been investigated. Each case is looked at individually.
Investigators will contact a store and determine how much a store paid for an item. They will then see how much they are marking item up.
Currently, some products are more expensive for a store to purchase therefore higher prices are not necessarily price gouging. Five cease and desist letters have been issued so far. If a company refuses to comply with the letter, a lawsuit may be filed.
You can also file a complaint by sending an email to ConsumerHelp@cao.hctx.net.