Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton today filed a lawsuit to stop Auctions Unlimited LLC from price gouging Texans for necessary, health-related supplies. Following Governor Abbott’s disaster declaration, Auctions Unlimited listed an auction on its website for “over 750,000 face masks,” and that listing included face masks, N95 particulate respirators, hand soap, all-purpose cleaner, and disinfectant wipes.
On March 24, bidding on N95 respirator masks pushed listings as high as $180 for a package of just 16 masks. Auctions Unlimited owner Tim Worstell admitted to receiving warnings from both local police and the Texas Attorney General; however, he moved forward with the exorbitantly priced auctions.
“The Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act expressly prohibits anyone from selling necessary items at an excessive price when a disaster is declared and, despite repeated warnings from law enforcement, that is exactly what we’ve seen Auctions Unlimited do,” said Attorney General Paxton. “My office will not tolerate anyone taking advantage of Texans in need and profiting from this health crisis.”
Currently, the disaster declaration prompted by several discovered cases of Coronavirus in Texas is effective across the entire state. Price gouging is illegal, and a disaster declaration triggers tough penalties under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Price-gougers may be required to reimburse consumers and may be held liable for civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation with an additional penalty of up to $250,000 if the affected consumers are elderly.
Texans who believe they have encountered price gouging should call the Office of the Attorney General’s toll-free complaint line at (800) 621-0508 or file a complaint online.
Read a copy of today’s filing here.
For information on the spread or treatment of Coronavirus (COVID-19), please visit the Texas Department of State Health Services website.