Price gouging law in effect for gas: What it means for NC consumers

Staff Report

RALEIGH-Report gas prices that seem unreasonably high, Attorney General Roy Cooper urged North Carolina consumers today.

North Carolina’s law against price gouging is currently in effect due to limited supplies of gasoline caused by a leak in a pipeline that carries gas from the Gulf Coast to North Carolina and other southeastern states.

As of 11 am on Monday, more than 400 consumers had filed complaints online or via a toll-free hotline to report potential gas price gouging to Cooper’s Consumer Protection Division.

“Consumers are our eyes and ears on the ground and we want to know if you spot potential gas price gouging,” Cooper said.

What is price gouging?

Price gouging—or charging too much 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 or proclaimed by the Governor. The law applies to all levels of the supply chain from the manufacturer to the distributor to the retailer.

The price gouging law is currently in effect due to a market disruption for gasoline declared late Friday.

How does the law define price gouging?

North Carolina law (Chapter 75-38) defines price gouging as charging “a price that is unreasonably excessive under the circumstances.” There is no set price or percentage increase defined in the law so the law can apply to different products and services in times of crisis. In this case, the law has in effect specifically to prevent gas price gouging. If a gas price looks excessive, report it and we will look into it.

How can I report price gouging?

You can report price gouging three ways:

File a complaint online at

Mail us a complaint to: Consumer Protection Division

Attorney General’s Office

Mail Service Center 9001

Raleigh, NC 27699-9001

Call 1-877-5-NO-SCAM (toll-free within North Carolina) or 919-716-6000.

What should I report?

It’s helpful if you can provide receipts if you purchased gas, or photos of gas station price signs you spot.

How do we investigate price gouging?

Our Consumer Protection Division follows up on complaints of potential price gouging to determine if the law has been violated. We use information provided by consumers, including first-hand reports, receipts, and photos of gas station price signs. We contact gas stations about reports we get and also look at the costs gas stations are charged by their suppliers.

What happens to price gougers?

Price gougers can face fines of up to $5,000 for each violation under North Carolina law. According to our state Constitution, all fines go to support the public schools. We also try to win refunds for consumers whenever possible.

In 2008, North Carolina faced a similar gas crisis when Gulf Coast refineries shut down. With the price gouging law in effect, Cooper took action and won $71,000 in consumer refunds, energy assistance and fines from 14 gas stations.

Staff Report

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