Thursday, September 11, 2008

Post-Hurricane Price Gouging

With hurricane season in full swing, the unfortunate topic of predatory pricing and price gouging arises. For some unknown reason, some individuals will take advantage of others' misfortune at the worst possible time.

Texas takes a very strong stance against these predatory price practices. If you feel you have been unfairly charged for fuel, food, medicine or other necessity, you have a remedy under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA). In addition, the Attorney General's office has the authority to prosecute price gougers. You may file a complaint with the AG's office here.

From the AG's website:

Please understand that we cannot act as your attorney. State law prohibits our office from giving individual citizens legal advice or opinions or providing legal representation. If you feel that you need legal advice, you will have to turn to another source such as a private attorney, legal aid society or other organization.

We can file suit only to protect the public interest. State law prohibits our office from filing a lawsuit whose only purpose is to recover money or property for a single person. In those instances, it is appropriate for the consumer to seek legal advice from a private attorney, legal aid society or other organization.

Our office does file suit against companies that violate the laws protecting consumers. However, we file these lawsuits to protect the public interest, not private interests. Whether a lawsuit is in the public interest depends on several factors:

  • Severity of the case in terms of economic loss or the number and gravity of law violations
  • Possibility of halting a fraudulent scheme quickly
  • Extent to which consumers will benefit from public enforcement
  • Costs of enforcement as compared to the benefits to the public
  • Likelihood of collecting penalties and restitution from the business

The DTPA is a powerful consumer protection law that gives you the right to sue for deceptive practices to recover your economic damages, mental anguish damages, and attorney's fees. In some cases, you may be entitled to recover treble (or multiple) damages if the defendant's acts are intentional.

We have represented clients with DTPA claims on a variety of matters.

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