Friday, September 2, 2005

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Abbott Commends Governor’S Emergency Declaration Enabling Tougher Price-Gouging Enforcement

AUSTIN - Attorney General Greg Abbott today commended Gov. Rick Perry’s emergency declaration and pledged to aggressively pursue businesses that gouge consumers in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The Governor’s declaration triggers stiffer penalties under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, including protections against price-gouging. Heightened enforcement penalties protect consumers against those who charge exorbitant fees for fuel, food, lodging, medicines, repair work or other necessities during and after officially declared disasters.

“The vast majority of Texas businesses faithfully follow the law, but consumers should also be aware that disasters are a prime opportunity for unscrupulous businesses to inflate prices or commit fraud,” Attorney General Abbott said. “I applaud the Governor’s bold action and my office will aggressively pursue anyone who violates the law by exploiting victims in the wake of this disaster.”

Since the hurricane struck on Monday, the Attorney General has received many complaints from consumers complaining of practices such as inflated motel rates and sharply higher gasoline prices. Teams from the Attorney General’s Office have been visiting cities throughout East Texas this week to investigate suspected instances of false or misleading trade practices and to hand out information brochures regarding consumer rights and the filing of complaints.

Persons who believe they have been victimized may file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office by calling toll-free 800-252-8011 or by visiting the Attorney General’s Web site at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov and clicking on “Consumer Protection.”

The Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act prohibits businesses from engaging in false advertising of rates, prices or services at any time, but penalties and the Attorney General’s authority to act are increased during a disaster.