Wednesday, July 23, 2008

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Attorney General Abbott Urges South Texans to Stay Safe, Report Price Gouging During Storms

AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today reminded South Texans affected by Hurricane Dolly that state law prohibits price gouging in the wake of Gov. Rick Perry’s disaster declaration. Once the governor issues a declaration, vendors are prohibited from charging exorbitant prices for necessities such as groceries, clothing, medical supplies, lodging, repair work and fuel during and after such crises.

“During declared disasters, state law prohibits vendors from dramatically increasing the price of necessities,” Attorney General Abbott said. “South Texans should take steps to protect themselves and report any alleged price-gouging to the Office of the Attorney General. After the storm subsides, residents should carefully screen repair workers and be sure to obtain the best information before contracting for repair services.”

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Attorney General Abbott cautioned citizens along the Gulf Coast to be wary of home repair scam artists and other fraudulent businesses in the aftermath of stormy weather.

The Governor’s disaster declaration affects the following counties: Aransas, Bexar, Brooks, Calhoun, Cameron, Hidalgo, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kleberg, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, Victoria and Willacy.

A disaster declaration triggers stiffer penalties under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and includes proven incidences of price gouging by businesses. These heightened enforcement penalties protect consumers against those who charge exorbitant fees for necessities.

On Monday, Gov. Perry activated National Guard troops in anticipation of Hurricane Dolly’s landfall by mid-week. Texas residents from Corpus Christi to Brownsville were told to take precautions as the storm approaches Texas.

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

• Deal only with licensed or bonded contractors or builders;
• Call your insurance adjuster to get an estimate of the damage and repair cost;

• Be wary of contractors who solicit services door-to-door, especially those from another city or companies unfamiliar to you;
• Get the salesperson’s license plate number;
• 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.

Texans who believe they have been deceived by fraudulent business practices may call the Office of the Attorney General’s toll-free complaint line at (800) 252-8011 or file a complaint online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov