As category 5 Hurricane Irma approaches the southern coast of the United States, reports of price gouging have begun flooding into state consumer protection watchdog agencies.
During states of emergency, North Carolina state law prohibits vendors from selling essential products like gas and bottled water at artificially inflated prices during states of emergency, such as a hurricane.
The path Hurricane Irma will take is still somewhat unclear, and no state of emergency has been declared yet in North Carolina. However, Governor Roy Cooper issued an executive order last week activating price gouging protections following major disruptions in the nationwide fuel market after Hurricane Harvey hit the coast of Texas, home to a large portion of the county’s oil refineries.
To report price gouging in North Carolina, call the state hotline at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or 919-716-6000. Officials are urging consumers to include as many details as possible about the incident, including receipts, estimates, and product details.
Price gouging during an emergency is an unfortunately common practice. Hundreds of complaints were filed last week in Texas as consumers were met with outrageous prices for some essential goods and services after floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey devastated the state’s southern coast.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told the media that his office had received reports of gas being sold for $10 a gallon, and a case of water going for $99.
After Hurricane Katrina knocked out 95% of the Southwest’s oil refining capacity in 2005, gas prices skyrocketed across the U.S., and reports of widely varying gas prices at neighboring service stations prompted nationwide price-gouging concerns.