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Price gouging reports spike in Texas amid coronavirus outbreak

People filed more than 3,000 reports of coronavirus-related price gouging in Texas as of Friday afternoon, according to the Texas Office of the Attorney General.

AUSTIN, Texas — There have been thousands of complaints to the Office of the Attorney General in Texas accusing businesses across the state of taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic and inflating prices.

Food, face masks and hand sanitizer are all items people are reporting that could be marked up because sellers are trying to make some extra cash.

"All of those essentials that people are needing right now, we've seen an increase in pricing," Heather Massey, the regional director for Better Business Bureau, said. 

Massey is warning about a surge in price gouging reports across the state of Texas with the spread of COVID-19.

According to the Attorney General's Office, there have already been more than 3,000 complaints of price gouging related to the coronavirus and an additional 244 complaints about scams. That makes for a total of 3,298 complaints related to COVID-19.

"I think for a little bit longer we're going to see a normal to high volume of price gouging calls," Marc Rylander, the director of communication for the Texas Attorney General, said. 

The KVUE Defenders first reported price gouging of health products like hand sanitizer online about a month ago. 

RELATED: Amazon suspends 3,900 accounts for price gouging amid pandemic

Rylander said the problem of price gouging continues, but there is no defined threshold of what separates price gouging from a high-priced item.

"Yeah, I wish there was a magic number that we could use to determine at which point the threshold is for something being legitimate price gouging," Rylander said. 

But the Attorney General's Office is taking a stance. 

The attorney general filed a lawsuit on Thursday against Auctions Unlimited. It’s an auction house based in Houston that the AG says was price gouging necessary medical supplies like masks, hand soap, all-purpose cleaner and disinfectant wipes. 

RELATED: $10 toilet paper? Coronavirus gouging complaints surge in US

But overall, Rylander said the Attorney General's Office is optimistic about the number of reports it has received.

"The fact that we've been in this now for a couple weeks and we're at about the halfway mark of where we were with price gouging complaints after Harvey, that's a positive thing," Rylander said. 

RELATED: Online sellers gouging hand sanitizer prices amid coronavirus scare

A spokesperson for the Attorney General's Office said they review every complaint they receive. If they decide a business is price gouging, they usually send them a cease and desist letter. If that doesn’t work, the Attorney General's Office could file a formal lawsuit.

To file a price gouging or scam complaint with the Attorney General's Office, follow this link

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