Hurricane Dolly price-gouging resolutions reached

Nick Rees Mar. 8, 2011, 3:10am


MCALLEN, Texas (Legal Newsline) - Five price-gouging cases against South Texas motel operators stemming from conduct during Hurricane Dolly were resolved on Monday by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

The motels allegedly unlawfully increased room prices after a disaster declaration was issued by Gov. Rick Perry as Hurricane Dolly approached Texas.

The five defendants - Motel 6 in Harlingen, Best Western Las Palmas Inn and Comfort Inn in Edinburg, Comfort Inn in Pharr, and Country Hearth Inn & Suites in Pharr/McAllen - agreed to Abbott's final judgment and permanent injunction.

Under terms of the final judgment, each of the defendants will pay civil penalties to the state and implement multiple changes to their business practices during a declared disaster.

The five motel operators are specifically prohibited from charging or accepting excessive or exorbitant fees for accommodations during a disaster. Each of the defendants is also required to post daily room rates in each room and maintain a registration system that includes guests' names, contact information, length of stay and rates charged per day.

The Motel 6 in Harlingen and the Best Western Las Palmas Inn in Edinburg are also prohibited from collecting hotel occupancy taxes for evacuees fleeing from a disaster when such taxes are waived by the governor.

Texas law prohibits vendors from raising prices to profit from a disaster when the governor declares a disaster. Under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, vendors are prohibited from selling or leasing fuel, food, lodging, medicine or other necessities for excessive or exorbitant prices.

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