NC’s state of emergency enacts price-gouging law


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – One of the direct effects of the state of emergency declaration is the way it changes the law in North Carolina when it comes to price gouging.

Even before the state of emergency was declared, we saw panic buying and prices of goods shoot up well beyond reasonable.

Prior to the declaration of emergency, the state couldn’t do anything about price gouging but now it can.

We usually see it when bad weather hits.

People take advantage of the situation and start charging crazy prices for things.

Under North Carolina law, a price-gouging statute only kicks in when a state of emergency is declared.

The state law defines price gouging as “charging a price that is unreasonably excessive under the circumstances.”

Because there is no set price or percentage increase defined in the law, that statute can apply to different products and services in times of crisis.

Before the declaration of emergency, consumer investigator Steve Sbraccia found disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer at excessive prices being sold on Amazon.

When Sbraccia emailed Amazon asking about the products being sold at excessive prices, the company told him they were removing sellers who were charging excessive amounts for basic needs items.

Now, because those sellers do business in North Carolina, the state’s price gouging law will allow the attorney general to go after anyone selling those items to North Carolinians at excessive prices.

As we saw during recent hurricanes, the state can seek judgments against price gougers.

After Hurricanes Florence and Michael, the attorney general won judgments of more than $725,000 against those who took advantage during the state of emergency.

Those judgments included:

  • $242,500 in consumer restitution
  • $392,500 in money companies are barred from collecting from homeowners
  • $94,500 in penalties and fees

Here’s the catch.

The attorney general’s office can’t go after price gougers without a complaint so you have to report it to the attorney general.

Also, it can’t be for prices charged before the state of emergency went into effect. It has to be for prices charged after noon, March 10.

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