As people across the Metroplex searched for fuel, in fear that Hurricane Harvey would cause a shortage, Wade Johnson watched as prices at Bains Brother Petroleum #5 in Arlington climbed all the way up to $6.99 a gallon.
“I mean, I was furious. Absolutely," Wade Johnson said. That was his reaction a couple of weeks ago when he saw what was happening at his local gas station.
“Just gougers,” he says. “Taking advantage of a rough situation.”
Johnson took his anger to Facebook, posting pictures of the price. The post was then picked up and shared by the Arlington Voice and others. But then, Johnson took it a step further. He and a number of others filed formal complaints with the Attorney General’s office. Receipts and other Facebook posts show how high the prices were.
“$6.99? I mean, I was astounded then. That’s when my blood started boiling,” he says.
Tuesday, WFAA learned the Attorney General filed suit against Bains Brothers LLC, which also has locations in Carrollton and Richardson. They also filed suit against another Texas gas station operator and a hotel operator, accusing them of unlawful price gouging during the hurricane.
WFAA reached out twice to Bains Brothers, once on the phone and once in person, but never got a response. Chevron Corporation sent a response via email:
“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,” said Brian Coomes, Chevron’s district sales manager. “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.”
According to the lawsuit, the state could seek civil penalties in the tens of thousands of dollars—up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
One woman WFAA spoke to by phone, who also filed a complaint, was pleased.
“I’m so happy that’s going to happen,” she says. “Because like I said, we are in an emergency situation. Don’t take advantage of anybody.”
“They need to be responsible for this,” Johnson echoes, wondering how many people paid at the astronomical rate.
“Hopefully, these people will be a good example if the AG truly does get them,” he says. “And hopefully there will be other people who will realize you can’t do that and get away with it.”
To date, more than 3,300 price gouging complaints related to Hurricane Harvey have been filed with the AG’s office.