At AARP, we have been promoting the health and well-being of older Americans for more than 60 years. We are monitoring developments related to Covid-19 and are working feverishly to keep you informed by providing you information and resources to help older people and caregivers protect themselves from the virus and prevent its spread. One of the issues that accompany crisis situations is the issue of price gouging. Unfortunately, Texans are not immune to this type of illegal practice. Texans were told to be on the lookout for scams after Governor Greg Abbott issued a statewide Coronavirus disaster declaration on March 13.
Pedro Perez is with the Texas Attorney General's Office. He's the Deputy Chief for the Consumer Protection Division. He said that once the disaster declaration is made, people cannot take advantage of people by excessively hiking up prices.
"At that point, the Texas price gouging laws come into play which means we have a certain statute that limits those types of increases by selling drinking water, food, batteries, medicine, lodging, and other necessities at an exuberant or excessive price," said Perez. "The disaster declaration is effective across the entire state.
Listen to our AARP Podcast as Pedro Perez talks about price gouging in Texas amid Covid-19 crisis
There have already been reports of price gouging made to the Texas Attorney General's office. Perez said the big cities are seeing the biggest number of complaints.
"We are getting the most complaints from the major metropolitan areas. So, the Houston area, the Dallas area, and the San Antonio areas," said Perez. "Houston and Dallas are probably even because they have a similar population size."
Perez said people should file complaints with the AG's office if they feel they have are victims of price gouging. He said anyone caught engaging in this crime could face a fine of $10,000. The best defense against price gougers is educating yourself on what items actually cost. Perez said you should always ask about delivery charges if you opt to get your items delivered to your home. He did emphasize that this problem will likely get worse.
"We've dealt with a disaster in the past, but it has always been like a hurricane that lasts a week or so, maybe two weeks where there may be cases of price gouging taking place. In this instance I am concerned that we're going to have these issues extending beyond that period of time," said Perez. "Honestly, I am very concerned about this issue."
Perez said his office is trying to stay on top of this growing issue. He added that the Texas Attorney General's Office has numerous attorneys and investigators working on price gouging issues.
If you think you’ve been the victim of a disaster scam call the Texas Attorney General’s toll-free complaint line at (800) 621-0508 or you can file a complaint online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/consumer-protection.
For additional information on disaster scams, you can visit the Texas Attorney General's office website at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/cpd/disaster-scams.
To find out the latest information on the spread or treatment of Coronavirus also known as COVID-19, go to the Texas Department of State Health Services at dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/.
AARP also has you covered with coronavirus resources. You can get that info at www.aarp.org/coronavirus.