A price gouging law is now in effect for areas affected by the tornadoes.
The areas in Eastern Carolina include Bertie, Greene, Halifax, Onslow, Wilson and Pitt counties, as well as the city of Farmville. Also included are Bladen, Cumberland, Harnett, Hoke, Johnston, Lee, Pender, Robeson, Sampson and Wake counties, as well as the city of Dunn.
"During this time of recovery and repair, consumers shouldn't be ripped off," NC Attorney General Roy Cooper said Monday. "While most businesses are pitching in to rebuild communities, we will investigate if price gouging is reported."
According to the AG's office, "price gouging-or charging an unreasonably excessive amount in times of crisis-is against North Carolina law when a disaster, an emergency or an abnormal market disruption for critical goods and services is declared by the Governor or local governments. The law also applies to all levels of the supply chain from the manufacturer to the distributor to the retailer.
According to a news release, Cooper has enforced North Carolina's price gouging law in the past to win thousands of dollars in refunds for consumers and penalties from violators. Under the law, the Attorney General's Office can put a stop to price gouging and seek refunds for consumers who paid too much. The courts may also impose civil penalties against price gougers of up to $5,000 for each violation.
Investigating price gouging involves looking at the price charged for a good or service before the disaster, emergency or disruption is declared and then comparing that to the price after the declaration.
Consumers can report potential price gouging to the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within North Carolina or by filling out the price gouging complaint at www.ncdoj.gov.