AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit Thursday to stop Auctions Unlimited LLC from price-gouging Texans for necessary, health-related supplies.
Following Gov. Greg Abbott’s disaster declaration, Auctions Unlimited listed an auction on its website for “over 750,000 face masks,” and including face masks, N95 particulate respirators, hand soap, all-purpose cleaner and disinfectant wipes.
On March 24, bidding on N95 respirator masks pushed listings as high as $180 for a package of 16 masks. Auctions Unlimited owner Tim Worstell admitted to receiving warnings from both local police and the Texas Attorney General; but, he moved forward with the "exorbitantly-priced" auctions, the AG's office stated in a press release.
“The Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act expressly prohibits anyone from selling necessary items at an excessive price when a disaster is declared and, despite repeated warnings from law enforcement, that is exactly what we’ve seen Auctions Unlimited do,” Paxton said. “My office will not tolerate anyone taking advantage of Texans in need and profiting from this health crisis.”
Currently, the disaster declaration prompted by several discovered cases of coronavirus in Texas is effective across the entire state. Price-gouging is illegal, and a disaster declaration triggers tough penalties under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
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.
Texans who believe they have encountered price gouging should call the Office of the Attorney General’s toll-free complaint line at 800-621-0508 or file a complaint online.
Read a copy of Thursday’s filing here.