RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Gas prices are a big concern for many people as the cost of petroleum continues to shoot upwards.

As gas prices go higher and higher, some are worried about price gouging, so CBS 17 Consumer Investigator Steve Sbraccia brought those concerns to the state’s top law enforcement officer.

When it comes to gas prices, it’s pretty hard to keep track because they are jumping up on a daily and sometimes hourly basis.

But are those rapid price increases considered price gouging?

That depends.

Thursday at a Raleigh gas station, a gallon of regular was running $3.59 a gallon.

Friday morning, we saw a 40 cent increase at the same station, with a gallon of regular now running at $3.99.

“Everything is high at this point, so I expect prices to be where they are right now,” said motorist Victoria Waterman.

Sometimes gas prices change for no apparent reason like at one Raleigh gas station on Capital Boulevard as Sbraccia witnessed during a live report Thursday.

When CBS 17 arrived at 4 p.m. Thursday, the station sign said the price of a gallon of regular was $4.19.

After Sbraccia called attention to it in his live report, the price suddenly changed. A few minutes later, the price dropped by 30 cents to $3.89 a gallon.

Right now, the state remains under Executive Order No. 116 which is the COVID-19 state of emergency act.

Any state of emergency allows the attorney general to initiate price gouging investigations.

“We’re getting a number of complaints about gas prices,” said Attorney General Josh Stein.

Sbraccia asked Waterman what she considered price gouging.

“I would say $4.50 at this point,” she said.

Stein said it depends on how the $4.50 price was reached.

“If the cost of gas to the station has increased, the gas station can raise its prices,” he said.

Motorist Dan Heacox said he considers price gouging for gas when the station “is trying to make the most money.”

Stein said when a station raises the price of gas it has to be considered reasonable.

“If it’s unreasonably excessive, by state law, that’s when its price gouging,” he said.

Stein said there’s no set percentage or standard increase in costs when it comes to price gouging. It’s all based on how the price was arrived at.

If you think you are being taken, file a complaint with the attorney general’s office and his investigators will determine if it’s price gouging. If so, they will take action.

Stein said don’t expect instant results. He said price gouging investigations take to resolve.

Sometimes it takes quite a while to build and prosecute a case.

For example, he said his office just recently resolved some gas station price gouging complaints from the Colonial Pipeline shutdown which was last May.