Arlington gas station targeted by Attorney General in price gouging scheme
The Arlington gas station faced scrutiny at the end of August after a reader shared a photo which appeared to show price gouging
The Texas Attorney General has filed a lawsuit against the owners of an Arlington gas station accused of illegal price gouging during a gas shortage resulting from Hurricane Harvey.
It was announced Tuesday morning that Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a lawsuit against two Texas companies for inflating their gas prices as supplies dwindled throughout the state.
Bains Brothers Petroleum, owners of Texaco-branded gas stations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, faces legal scrutiny after two of its stations raised their gas prices to $6.99 per gallon during a temporary gas shortage experienced on Aug. 31.
First reported by the Arlington Voice, the Bains Brothers-owned station at 2809 Northwest Green Oaks Boulevard had raised its prices and reportedly demanded cash-only payments with no receipts given.
According to the filed lawsuit, some patrons claimed that the prices were raised while they were filling up. One customer, who believed she was purchasing gas at an advertised price of $4.29, found that she was charged $85 for 12 gallons of gas. Customers who complained to the store clerks were allegedly told there was "nothing [they] could do about it."
Lucky Singh, the store manager for the Arlington location, denied engaging in price gouging. He instead blamed the sudden price increase on a "computer malfunction."
Singh stated that when he was made aware of the sudden change in price, his store shut off pump operations until the problem was resolved.
He further denied customers would have experienced a price increase while pumping gas.
"The price changing while someone is pumping has never happened in my knowledge," Singh said. "If someone paid at the advertised price, that's the price they would pay through the transaction."
He also denied that his store was only accepting cash or that it wasn't providing receipts to customers. He claims he saved a copy of a receipt from that day which shows a credit card purchase for gas.
While some of Bains Brothers' locations are Texaco brand, the Arlington store is a Mobil brand.
A spokesperson for ExxonMobil told the Arlington Voice that it does not set gas prices for its independent distributors, and that it does not condone price gouging.
Questions specific to the Arlington location were not returned, however.
In addition to the Arlington location, Bains Brothers owns Texaco stations in Carrolton and Richardson.
Texaco merged with Chevron in 2000. While the petroleum company has previously stated online that it does not condone price gouging, a spokesperson told the Arlington Voice that Bains Brothers has not had its franchise license revoked or received any formal reprimand.
"The investigation is still ongoing, so it's too early to say," the spokesperson said.
Chevron released a statement Tuesday afternoon in response to the lawsuit.
“Chevron does not condone unlawful price gouging, which goes directly against our values as a company. We are working with the Attorney General’s office to investigate these complaints," the statement read. "Our branded fuel supply agreements require that independent station owners comply with all laws. Chevron will take action up to and including brand termination against station owners who are found to have broken the law. Chevron will continue to cooperate with state authorities in their efforts to prevent price gouging.”
“It’s unconscionable that any business would take advantage of Texans at their most vulnerable – those who are displaced from their homes, have limited resources, and are in desperate need of fuel, shelter and the basic necessities of life,” Paxton was quoted saying in a release. “Texas has tough price gouging laws, and my office will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute cases arising from Hurricane Harvey.”
According to the release, a successful conviction of price gouging carries a penalty up to $20,000 for each occurrence, and an additional penalty up to $250,000 for “incidents calculated to acquire money from victims 65 or older.”
Paxton’s office is also suing Encinal Fuel Stop for raising gas prices as high as $9.99.
Motel operator Robstown Enterprises, Inc., which operates as Best Western Plus Tropic Inn, is accused of tripling the price of its room rates the weekend Hurricane Harvey hit. Best Western has since ended its relationship with the company.
To date, 3,321 price gouging complaints related to Hurricane Harvey have been filed with the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s office.