State investigators have received more than 600 complaints of price gouging since the state of emergency went into effect earlier this month, the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office said Thursday.
“When people are at their lowest, companies should not take advantage of them to make an extra buck,” said Atty. Gen. Josh Stein (D).
The price gouging law bars sellers from charging “unreasonably excessive” prices. In investigating suspected incidents of price gouging, the state considers the price of a good or service for 60 days before the event that triggered the price gouging law taking effect.
Most of the complaints received as the state deals with the effects of Hurricane Florence have related to gasoline and water, Stein said. He said his office also received complaints regarding generators, hotels and rental cars.
When Hurricane Matthew impacted North Carolina two years ago, the state received about 1,500 complaints of price gouging, said Laura Brewer, a spokesperson for Stein.
“Most of (the complaints) turn out not to be price gouging,” said Stein. “The most important role of the price gouging statute is to deter companies from their worst impulses.”
N.C. State economist Mike Walden says during events like a hurricane there can be legitimate reasons for price increases.
“We understand that in a normal situation, we want prices to move around. They send signals, et cetera. But, these are not normal situations,” he said. “I think the more widespread and devastating storms are, you’re going to see higher prices, especially for example with this storm where it’s a matter of supplies perhaps not being able to get in.”
He also noted higher prices on goods such as gasoline and water can serve to prevent people from buying too much of those things and not leaving enough available for other people who also need them.
If you want to report a suspected incident of price gouging, you can call 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or click here.