Texas AG Warns State Businesses of Consequences for Exploiting Hurricane Victims

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has warned Texas businesses such as hotels and motels that fraud and false advertising to inflate prices in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in Southeast Louisiana will not be tolerated.

The Attorney General and local law enforcement authorities in Southeast Texas will reportedly be closely scrutinizing complaints about businesses that take advantage of storm refugees by driving up prices for lodging and other goods and services.

The City of Nacogdoches, for example, has already notified the Attorney General that it has received consumer complaints about inflated rates at a local economy hotel. Attorney General Abbott will dispatch teams to several East Texas cities to hand out information brochures regarding consumer rights and the filing of complaints.

“Desperate people have come into Texas in droves, leaving their homes to escape the devastation of Hurricane Katrina,” said Abbott. “We will bring legal action against any business that takes advantage of these citizens and their dire circumstances. My office will work closely with local police and district attorneys to aggressively pursue anyone who violates the law by exploiting victims in the wake of this massive storm.”

Mandatory evacuations in Louisiana and Mississippi have forced hundreds of thousands of people to find emergency shelter elsewhere. Hotels in Houston, Beaumont and other area cities are likely stopover points for the influx of residents fleeing the storm’s path.

“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, and I will not tolerate this,” said Abbott.

Katrina hit the coast of Southeast Louisiana this morning as a Category 4 storm with sustained winds in excess of 135 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

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.oag.state.tx.us and clicking on “Consumer Protection.”

The Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act prohibits businesses from engaging false advertising of rates, prices or services during a disaster or any other time.