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Robstown hotel faces price gouging lawsuit

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The Tropic Inn in Robstown faces a price gouging lawsuit filed by the Attorney General's Office. The Tropic Inn in Robstown faces a price gouging lawsuit filed by the Attorney General's Office.
The State claims the Tropic Inn took advantage of storm victims by raising room rates during Harvey. The State claims the Tropic Inn took advantage of storm victims by raising room rates during Harvey.
ROBSTOWN -

The State is making good on its promise to go after businesses that tried to take advantage of storm victims. A Robstown hotel is now one of three Texas businesses to be sued for price gouging during Hurricane Harvey.

Last week, the Best Western hotel chain cut its ties with the Tropic Inn after reports of hiked room rates. Now,  the Texas Attorney General's office is stepping in.

The Attorney General filed a lawsuit accusing the Tropic Inn of taking advantage of storm victims and raising room rates during Harvey. That suit claims they charged close to $300 dollars a night, about three times the normal rate for a room. 

Two weeks before Harvey struck, guests could check in to the Tropic Inn in for $108 a night, but after the Governor declared a disaster, evacuees seeking shelter found the price jumped up to $289. That is according to the suit the Attorney General's office filed accusing the Robstown business of price gouging during the disaster, which is illegal. 

The lawsuit reads:

"Almost immediately, incredible stories of compassion and heroism emerged - reporters rescued citizens on live television and local business owners opened their doors to provide shelter to evacuees and first responders. Unfortunately, also almost immediately consumers began contacting the Texas Attorney General with reports of excessive and exorbitant pricing."

The lawsuit states one Tropic Inn employee told guests they were charging a high rate because of "weather," and another clerk admitted rooms were not going for normal price. 

The hotel isn't just facing price gouging charges. The lawsuit also claims it collected the hotel occupancy tax, which the Governor had waived for storm victims and first responders.

It also claims the Tropic Inn "caused adverse effects to legitimate business."

That includes Best Western. What were once best western signs are now covered, as all branding is being removed from the hotel.

Best Western reps tell KRIS 6 News:

"Best Western was founded on the principles of honesty, integrity, compassion, and service.  We were deeply offended and saddened by the actions of this hotel. As a result, we severed the relationship with the hotel. This hotel’s actions are contrary to the values of Best Western.  We did not and do not tolerate this type of egregious and unethical behavior. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the individuals, families, and communities impacted by Hurricane Harvey.”

The State is seeking $20,000 in damages for all customers who claim to be victims. If a customer is older than 65 years old, they are seeking $250,000. That is in addition to all legal fees, and the lawsuit states that could add up to over a million dollars in penalties. 

Today the Attorney General's Office filed lawsuits against three Texas businesses, but this could be just the beginning. They have received more than 3,300 complaints of price gouging since the Governor declared a disaster.

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