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Bugs and Price-Gouging.


During any major disaster, whether it is a devastating hurricane, wildfires, or flooding there are always those bugs that come scurrying out from under their rocks seeking to take advantage of their fellow human being for an exorbitant profit. I have seen these bugs working to take advantage of helpless people first-hand, and those that know me know it is almost impossible for me to sit by and not open my big mouth.


In September of 2008, Hurricane Ike struck Galveston and Houston with 120 mph winds. It leveled parts of Galveston County and caused major damage in Houston. I was hired to go down and basically protect a Home Depot store in southwest Houston. During my time there, I saw people trying to sell hot meals to hungry workers for $25 each. The meal was a chili dog and a bag of regular Lays chips. After being informed of these bugs, I politely approached them and told them to shove their chili dogs up there asses and to get off the property. I may, or may not, have used a few more choice words, but you get the picture.


Bugs that will try and take advantage of their fellow man while he/she is down, are pretty close to being the lowest of the low. Unfortunately, there are reputable businesses that also take part in price-gouging, albeit usually on a much smaller scale. I have known of a grocery company that is usually a good neighbor in their communities, to suspend their weekly sale during times of community need. Technically, they are not price-gouging, but I'll let you form your own opinions about the matter.


Independently-owned gas stations and convenience stores are, by far, the worst offenders. They are also some of the most difficult offenders to catch and punish because they can change their prices in a matter of seconds, and most people don't report them because they are concentrating on taking care of their families during the crisis.


As of Thursday morning though, the Consumer Protection Division of the Texas Attorney General’s office had received 756 complaints related to the current Coronavirus disaster declaration; so it appears that people are starting to report violations to the Attorney General's Office, which is a great thing. You can learn more about how to file a complaint here.


According to NBC 5 in Dallas, price-gougers may be required to reimburse consumers and could be held liable for civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation with an additional penalty of up to $250,000 if the affected consumers are elderly. I personally think that the civil penalties should go to the person who reported, provided proof, and testified against the bug and not the government, but hey, it is what it is.


If you’ve encountered price gouging or deceptive trade practices, the Consumer Protection Division encourages consumers to file a complaint online or over the phone. Complaints can be filed online at http://txoag.force.com/CPDOnlineForm, through email at consumeremergency@oag.texas.gov, or by phone at 1-800-621-0508.

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