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Texas law makes prosecution against price-gouging difficult, despite local leaders’ warning

No Disaster Declaration makes crime harder to prosecute

HOUSTON – Both Mayor Sylvester Turner and Gov. Greg Abbott have made public statements warning merchants against price-gouging, but Texas Law makes it difficult to prosecute such crimes unless the president or the governor has declared a disaster in the area.

The coronavirus issue has not produced a declared disaster at this point in any Texas county, however, a press release warns that the governor could make that move in order to enforce reasonable pricing during what has proven to be a trying time for consumers.

Here is how Texas State Law reads regarding price-gouging:

§17.46(b) of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act provides that it is a false, misleading or deceptive act or practice to take advantage of a disaster declared by the Governor under Chapter 418, Government Code, or the President by:

  • Selling or leasing fuel, food, medicine, lodging, building materials, construction tools, or another necessity at an exorbitant or excessive price
  • Demanding an exorbitant or excessive price in connection with the sale or lease of fuel, food, medicine, lodging, building materials, construction tools, or another necessity.

Exorbitant prices for hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray would most likely fit into “another necessity” category, but the law would not trigger until the disaster is declared.