Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee Testified to State Legislators, Advocating for More Local Autonomy to Hold Price Gougers Accountable
Today, Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee testified in Austin before the Texas House of Representatives’ Committee on Business & Industry. Discussing the Harris County Attorney’s Office recent investigations of price gouging during Winter Storm Uri, Menefee asked lawmakers to give more autonomy to local governments to bring cases against price gougers.
Currently, local governments can only seek penalties for price gouging if the Office of the Attorney General joins the suit. Otherwise, local governments can only seek an injunction barring future price gouging, with penalties if the price gouger violates the injunction. Menefee explained to the Committee that permitting local governments to act makes sense, especially for local instances of price gouging, and that limiting local governments to injunctions does not right the wrong because price gougers will typically stop their practice once they’ve been caught.
“When stores in Harris County sell 12 packs of water for $50 each, it impacts our neighborhoods. As we saw with Winter Storm Uri, catching bad actors for price gouging and holding them accountable is a fast moving process. Requiring local elected civil attorney offices to bring the Attorney General’s Office into any penalty cases can slow down the process, undermining our ability to protect our residents. And perhaps more importantly, the Attorney General’s Office can refuse to join the case without any explanation,” said County Attorney Menefee.
In less than two weeks, the Harris County Attorney’s Office received more than 1,000 reports of price gouging and other consumer complaints related to Winter Storm Uri. The Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act makes it illegal for a business or an individual to sell or lease fuel, food, medicine, lodging, building materials, construction tools, or other necessities at an exorbitant or excessive price during a declared emergency.
County Attorney Menefee’s testimony can viewed at the website for the Texas House of Representatives.
About the Harris County Attorney’s Office
Christian D. Menefee serves as the Harris County Attorney, the County's chief civil lawyer. The Harris County Attorney's Office is committed to protecting and proactively advocating for the interests of Harris County residents and government through the civil justice system.