Travis County issues warning against price gouging, unnecessary electricity use during extreme cold conditions

Photo of a line in the cold
Travis County Judge Any Brown issued an order against price gouging on Feb. 16. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)

Travis County Judge Any Brown issued an order against price gouging on Feb. 16. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)

Travis County Judge Andy Brown issued an order Feb. 16 warning against price gouging by businesses in response to heightened need during extreme winter weather. He also ordered businesses and commercial buildings to limit electric use during the current cold weather crisis.

“We need our business partners to join in our community effort to all do our part to limit electricity use. Today’s order will help accomplish just that. Additionally, it will reinforce efforts to protect Travis County families from price gouging. This winter weather emergency is not an excuse to take advantage of our neighbors when they are vulnerable,” Brown said in a news release.

Per the order, businesses and residences who have power should limit their electric use to the extent possible, including industrial and commercial businesses that use electricity to conduct operations. Stadiums, athletic facilities and other businesses should also shut off external lights, the order said.

Businesses and residences with power were also encouraged to set thermostats to 68 degrees or lower.

Additionally, businesses that engage in price gouging—defined as demanding, selling or leasing goods and services at an exorbitant price—could be fined up to $10,000, per Texas Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act. Fines can reach $250,000 if the victim of price gouging is 65 years of age or older.

Items specifically named in the order included, but were not limited to, groceries, beverages, ice, restaurant meals, medicine and medical supplies, lodging and transportation provisions.

Brown's order is effective through the extent of Gov. Greg Abbott's Disaster Declaration, which went into effect Feb. 12.

Additionally, Brown issued an extension of standing orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the prohibition of gatherings of over 10 people; the requirement to wear face coverings in most public situations; and the order to socially distance by at least six feet. This set of orders extends to April 21.
By Olivia Aldridge
Olivia is the reporter for Community Impact's Central Austin edition. A graduate of Presbyterian College in upstate South Carolina, Olivia was a reporter and producer at South Carolina Public Radio before joining Community Impact in Austin.


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