RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — It’s been 49 days since Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of Emergency regarding the pandemic — which allowed the state’s price gouging law to kick in.

In North Carolina, the attorney general says there’s a rapidly growing number of price gouging complaints coming into his office.

When you shop online — you may have noticed prices going up.

Experts say it’s normal for prices to go up during a crisis — but within reason.

Attorney General Josh Stein’s office

But, if they go up too much online or in the store — it’s price gouging and this state has seen more than 1,600 complaints.

“The majority of them dealt with groceries,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “We also saw complaints about masks, cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer.”

A breakdown supplied by Stein’s office showed excessive grocery prices far outweighed anything else — consisting of 50 percent of the complaints with extreme cases getting top priority.

“We are investigating each complaint,” said Stein. “We sent investigative demands to sellers about whom we are very concerned.”

The grocery complaints started back on the week of March 16 — and almost immediately far exceed complaints about other items.

Attorney General Josh Stein’s office

A graph supplied by Stein’s office showed during the month of March complaints were skyrocketing and by the middle of April had topped more than 840 with no end in sight.

How does the state determine price gouging?

“If their prices went up because their expenses went up that’s not price gouging,” said Stein. “But if they don’t have a basis for the price increase—that is price gouging and we will enforce the law.”

He said the investigative process is a process that takes some time—it doesn’t happen in the snap of a finger.

“We have to communicate with the seller and ask do they have a justification for the price change,” said Stein.

By the way, anyone from North Carolina selling online whether it’s an Amazon, eBay, or privately is subject to price gouging regulations.