As Hurricane Harvey raged over the Gulf Coast last fall, some retailers saw an opportunity to increase their profit margins. After the storm settled, the Texas Attorney General’s Office got involved and began investigating more than 120 gas stations for suspected price gouging.
The office received more than 5,000 complaints from consumers about gas stations that raised prices on unleaded gas to at least $3.99 per gallon for gas (the national average, at the time of the storm, was $2.35 a gallon). Over the past several months, they’ve begun reaching settlements with the state, resulting in refunds to customers who were overcharged for fuel during the emergency. The latest in these ongoing negotiations came this week, when a North Texas chain of stations owned and operated by Bains Brothers, LLC, agreed to pay out $26,000 to customers. According to the Dallas Observer, Bains’s stations charged as much as $6.99 a gallon, despite signs that advertised much lower prices. In July, the first batch of settlements began with 48 businesses agreeing to pay $166,592 in combined restitution to customers. (Bains Brothers represents the 53rd such settlement.) Of the initial 48 stores, 42 of them were in the Dallas–Fort Worth area. The rest were in Central Texas.