Submitted by Rachel R on Wed, 02/12/2014 - 5:32pm
Winter storm Pax has wreaked havoc in NC and other southern states
Image source: Otto Phokus via Flickr Creative Commons
Yet another super storm has hit and North Carolina has been plagued with freezing rain and ice on limbs that has damaged vehicles, businesses and homes. NC and other states have issued state of emergency declarations and this also triggered our state's price gouging lawthat will hopefully protect consumers from retailers and servicers looking to take advantage of the crisis.
How the Price Gouging law works
The law goes into effect whenever there is a natural disaster like the recent winter storm, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes or other events of that ilk. Price gouging, by definition, is charging above-market rates that are neither reasonable nor fair. In essence, it's taking advantage and in North Carolina, it's agains the law.
For consumers that are victims of price gouging, NC's Attorney General can take on the perpetrators to put an end to the over-charging and order refunds issued to consumers who overpaid. NC state courts can also inflict penalties of up to $5,000 per infraction on the retailers or companies that are overcharging. The law applies not just to front line retailers, but also those that supply them that are raising prices unfairly during crises.
NC consumers should be on the look out for price gouging during natural disasters and emergencies
Image source: DVIDSUB via Flickr Creative Commons
How the Price Gouging law has been enforced
Back in 2008, after Hurricane Ike hit the state, several gas stations raised their prices from less than $4 per gallon up to $5.99 per gallon. But AG Roy Cooper hit the fuel retailers hard as soon as his office began to receive complaints and news media spread word of the price gouging. All the stations lowered their prices back down, but not in time to avoid $5,000 penalties and other fines they were slapped with.
How the Price Gouging law can protect consumers from Pax
Consumers looking to protect themselves against the icy and chill temperatures resulting from winter storm Pax may have noticed a sharp increase in propane prices. If you heat your home with propane and noticed a major price increase that seems to be linked to the storm, you should report the retailer to the Attorney General's office by calling 877-5-NO-SCAM. Alternately, you can complete an online complaint form.
In other areas, before and after natural disasters, retailers have hiked prices on bottled water, food, repair supplies such as plywood, shingling and other roofing materials, space heaters, propane and any items that become critically important during emergencies. If you have noticed any drastic rate increases, snap a photo with your smart phone of the increased prices and send this along with your complaint to the AG's office or the North Carolina Department of Justice.
For assistance with debt relief and to find out if and how bankruptcy can offer you a fresh financial start, contact the law offices of John T Orcutt for a free consultation. Stay safe and warm this week!
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