Such price spikes are illegal under Texas law, which prohibits selling fuel, food, medicine, lodging, building materials or other necessities “at an exorbitant or excessive price” during a state or federal disaster declaration.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office urged residents who suspect they are victims of price gouging to file a complaint with their office. Violators may be required to reimburse consumers and can face civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation. Additional penalties of up to $250,000 can be imposed if the victims are elderly.
Dallas hotelier Larry Hamilton said that while there may be legitimate complaints of price gouging, he also wondered if some complaints lacked merit. He said prices at his 193-room Aloft Hotel in downtown Dallas are averaging $94 per night, and that a customer became irate when he was quoted a price of $109.
“He called my general manager and was threatening to report us for gouging,” Hamilton said. “Moreover, and this is Economics 101, price is what creates equilibrium between supply and demand, and it’s an important regulator. Price is something that fluctuates, and it should.”
The hospitality business has taken a financial beating in the last year, in large part because of government-mandated closures and the hesitancy of people to travel during a pandemic. Hamilton, who had to close another boutique hotel in Dallas because of power outages, said hotels in the area have been running at less than 10% occupancy during the pandemic.
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