Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive

Monday, July 8, 2002

ATTORNEY GENERAL CORNYN ISSUES PRICE-GOUGING WARNING

Disaster Declaration Triggers Consumer Precautions

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn today issued a strong warning to businesses tempted to price-gouge consumers as a catastrophic flooding situation -- resulting in a 39-county State disaster declaration -- continues across Central and South Texas.

"My heart goes out to Central and South Texans. Stiff consequences await any business that attempts to swindle these consumers suffering as a result of the tragic and destructive flooding," said Attorney General Cornyn.

"While the vast majority of Texas businesses faithfully follow the law, consumers should be aware that disasters are a prime opportunity for unscrupulous businesses to inflate prices dramatically and illegally. We will aggressively enforce the law against anyone who exploits victims in the wake of the a disaster," Attorney General Cornyn said.

A declaration of disaster triggers stiffer penalties under the State's Deceptive Trade Practices Act, which can protect consumers against those who charge exorbitant fees for fuel, food, medicines, repair work or other necessities during disasters.

The 39 counties named in Governor Rick Perry's disaster declaration are Atascosa, Bandera, Bastrop, Bexar, Blanco, Brown, Burnet, Caldwell, Comal, DeWitt, Dimmit, Duval, Eastland, Edwards, Frio, Gillespie, Goliad, Gonzales, Guadalupe, Hays, Hidalgo, Jim Wells, Karnes, Kendall, Kerr, La Salle, Lavaca, Live Oak, Llano, McMullen, Medina, Real, Taylor, Travis, Uvalde, Val Verde, Williamson, Wilson and Zavala. Flooding in these counties has caused deaths, injuries, widespread property damage and inundated numerous roads and bridges.

When consumers turn to businesses for services to help in the clean-up and rebuilding process, they should consider these precautions:

  • Deal only with licensed or bonded contractors or builders;
  • Be wary of contractors who solicit services door-to-door, especially those unfamiliar to you;
  • Don't be rushed into signing a contract, and never pay up-front for promised work;
  • Secure the terms of any warranty work in writing; and
  • Ask for references, or rely on recommendations from friends or relatives who have had experience with honest contractors.

Persons who believe they have been victimized by price-gouging may file a complaint with the Attorney General's office by calling toll-free 800-621-0508 or 800-337-3928, or file a complaint online at www.oag.state.tx.us and click on "Consumer Protection."

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