ATTORNEY GENERAL ABBOTT SURVEYS STORM-DAMAGED AREAS, WARNS AGAINST PRICE-GOUGING
SOUTH PADRE ISLAND Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today toured South Texas areas hit hardest by Hurricane Dolly, reminding affected residents that state law prohibits price-gouging in the wake of Gov. Rick Perry’s disaster declaration. Once the governor issues a disaster 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. In the aftermath of Hurricane Dolly, South Texans should take steps to protect themselves and report any alleged price-gouging to the Office of the Attorney General. Residents also should carefully screen repair workers and be sure to obtain the best information before contracting for repair services.
On Monday, Gov. Perry issued a disaster declaration and activated National Guard troops in anticipation of Hurricane Dolly’s landfall. 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.
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.
Attorney General Abbott cautioned South Texans to be wary of home repair scam artists and other fraudulent businesses in the storm’s aftermath. 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 unfamiliar companies;
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.