HOUSTON (CBSMiami) – Houston is full of stories of neighbors helping neighbors through the challenges of Hurricane Harvey. But there are also those who see opportunities in a disaster.
Consumers are reporting getting gouged on prices, just when then they are most desperate for supplies.
In Texas, during a disaster like Hurricane Harvey, it’s illegal to charge excessive prices for basic necessities. But complaints are pouring in to state officials, including stores charging as much as $100 for a case of drinking water.
“You’re not supposed to artificially inflate prices of things that are emergency or needed during a disaster,” said Dan Parsons with the Better Business Bureau of Greater Houston and South Texas.
The Attorney General’s Office has already fielded more than 600 complaints since the storm hit, mostly about drinking water and gasoline, which has gone as high as $10 a gallon. Also hotels, reported for tripling and quadrupling prices.
If you think you’re being gouged, the Attorney General says to raise the issue with the seller. If you can’t resolve the matter, save your receipt and file a complaint.
The Better Business Bureau says gouging is often a problem around natural disasters.
“You want credit card purchases, something you can go back to and say, ‘Look, here’s the prevailing market price. Here’s what I was charged.’ And even better, go back in three weeks and say, ‘And look what the price is now,'” Parsons said.
More than 30 states have passed anti-gouging laws. In Texas, violators can be fined as much as $20,000. If the victim is over 65, the fine can shoot up to $250,000.
Another problem may be shortages. Many gas stations are closed because they are out of fuel.