Wednesday, July 16, 2003

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Attorney General Issues Price-Gouging Warnings After Hurricane Strikes Texas

COASTAL BEND - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott traveled to the Coastal Bend today, where he alerted residents and business owners (audio) to heed the disaster proclamation issued by Gov. Rick Perry. Abbott urged citizens to beware of price gouging for food, fuel, lodging and other services as the area recovers from Hurricane Claudette.

"Price gouging will not be tolerated in Texas," Abbott said. "While most businesses follow the law, consumers should be aware that potential disasters are prime opportunities for unscrupulous businesses to inflate prices illegally. This is not the time for that kind of activity, and I will prosecute anyone who tries to pull it off."

A disaster declaration triggers stiff penalties under the Deceptive Trade Practices Act. These provisions protect consumers against those who charge exorbitant fees for necessities during and after disasters.

Persons who believe they have been victimized by price-gouging may file a complaint with the Attorney General's Office by calling toll-free 1-800-252-8011. Complaints can also be filed online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov (click on "Consumer Protection").

Unscrupulous business owners have also been known to prey on consumers in the days following a disaster. The Attorney General reminds consumers and property owners to keep these tips in mind in the event of flood cleanups:

Engage the services of licensed or bonded contractors or builders;
Be wary of door-to-door solicitations and offers of up-front payment for services not rendered;
Don't be rushed into signing contracts;
Secure the terms of any warranty work in writing;
Ask for references from contractors of satisfied customers.
The Texas Attorney General's Office has prosecuted numerous price-gouging cases in recent years, including several that arose when Tropical Storm Allison hit the Houston area in 2001.

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Other related information: Audio: Attorney General Greg Abbott warns about price gouging (MP3)
When Disaster Strikes - Tips for consumers (PDF format)
Price Gouging is Illegal! (PDF format)
Home Improvement Brochure (HTML format)