EDINBURG, Texas – The Hidalgo County Judge has implemented price controls to address reports of price gouging in the midst of the cold weather.
Judge Richard F. Cortez has also declared in an emergency order to deal with a record shattering wintry blast.
“We will not tolerate people being taken advantage of during this cold spell,” Cortez said.
The state of emergency came into effect as of midnight on Tuesday, February 16 and will stay in effect for seven days.
“The County Judge has determined that extraordinary emergency measures must be taken to protect the public health, safety and general well-being of County citizens, in order to alleviate the suffering of people and to protect or rehabilitate property,” the declaration says.
The Texas Business and Commerce Code prevents price gouging during a declared emergency and continues for 30 days after the date the declaration expires or is terminated.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration on February 12.
Cortez said the implementation of price controls means that the prices that were being charged for a variety of goods and services on or before February 12 shall be the most a merchant may charge during the state of emergency.
Those listed goods and services include:
a) groceries, beverages, toilet articles, ice
b) construction and building materials and supplies, and earthmoving equipment and machinery
c) electrical and gas generating and transmission equipment, party and accessories
d) charcoal briquettes, matches, candles, lamp illumination and heat unit carbides, dry batteries, light bulbs, flashlights, and hand lanterns
e) hand tools (manual and power), hardware and household supplies, and equipment rental
f) automotive parts, supplies, and accessories
g) plumbing and electrical tools and supplies
h) apartment, duplex, multi-family dwelling, rooming house, hotel and motel rental
i) gasoline, diesel oil, motor oil, kerosene, grease, and automotive lubricants
j) restaurant, cafeteria, and boarding-house meals
k) services of roofing and building contractors, plumbers, electricians, mechanics, tree surgeons, and automobile wrecker companies
l) medicine, pharmaceutical, and medical equipment and supplies
m) blankets, quilts, bedspreads, bed linens, mattresses, bedsprings, bedsteads, towels, and toilet paper
n) furniture and clothing
Hidalgo County Criminal District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez, Jr., welcomed Cortez’s decision on price controls.
“I am very concerned about the reports our office has been receiving, especially related to hotels raising the cost for room rentals. With continued power outages during this cold weather event, many elderly persons and families with small children have no other options to shelter from the weather,” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez said his office will assist the Attorney General’s Office whenever there is reason to believe that a person or business is engaging in, or has engaged in any act or practice that is related to price gouging during the declared emergency.
Rodriguez said investigators in the DA’s office will be making contact with persons and businesses seeking voluntary compliance, and/or conducting investigations to determine if there are alleged violations, in order to protect the public interest.
Under the law, the District Attorney may institute and prosecute actions for violations of the law and may seek any available remedies under the Code. Upon request, the District Attorney may also lend assistance to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division in the commencement and prosecution of an action pursuant to the Code.
To report any alleged price gouging, the public should file a complaint online or call the Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-621-0508. For further assistance call the Hidalgo County Criminal District Attorney’s Office at 956-292-7600.
Meanwhile, all county government offices in Hidalgo County will remain closed.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said that it intends to conserve electrical power across Texas as another cold front is expected to push in from the north in the next few days.
Judge Cortez said this means buildings and homes in South Texas that are without power are likely to remain in the dark for at least another day.
In turn, this is expected to burden water systems, Cortez warned. Both electric and water issues continue to hamper operations in county buildings and in the homes of many Hidalgo County residents, he noted.
“This is unwelcome news from ERCOT,” said Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez. “But we must remain mindful of the public’s health and safety as well as the health and safety of Hidalgo County employees.”
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