Bottled water, hotel rooms, rental cars: State investigates price gouging after Hurricane Matthew
Posted October 25
Updated October 29
Raleigh, N.C. — The North Carolina Consumer Protection Division has questions for four businesses accused of jacking up prices as the state dealt with Hurricane Matthew. The Attorney General's Office on Tuesday issued subpoenas requiring the businesses to explain why their prices went so high.
Customers reported being charged $29 for a 24-pack of water at a Kangaroo convenience store at 6605 Raeford Road in Fayetteville and as much as $300 per night at a Budget Inn at 800 W. Franklin St. in Gastonia. A Sleep Inn, at 203 NC Highway 55 West in Mount Olive reportedly charged as much as $150 a night for rooms that typically go for less than $90.
Mickey Aberman, an attorney representing the The Komegay Company, LLC, of Charlotte, which owns that Sleep Inn, called the claims against the hotel "a sort of urban legend" and said he'll be able to provide proof that the hotel did not overcharge.
Aberman said, "Not only did the Sleep Inn in Mount Olive not price gouge during the recent flooding event, they housed Red Cross workers at the Federal per diem rate of $91 and also consciously sacrificed revenues to get power crews close to the areas that needed work. During much of the period in question, the hotel was full with these workers. The average rate was around $95, which is in line with usual rates."
Reports from the attorney general's officer later confirmed that the hotel did not participate in price gouging.
Customers reported that car rental rates doubled – from about $30 per day to about $60 per day at Enterprise locations in Fayetteville, Lumberton, Raleigh, Elizabeth City and Boone.
Enterprise issued a statement Tuesday evening saying they take Roy Cooper's comments seriously and will "thoroughly review every complaint or concern."
Rest assured that when natural disasters like Hurricane Matthew strike, Enterprise immediately focuses on serving government agencies, utility companies, relief workers and insurance companies in their efforts to help communities get the recovery and restoration process underway. That process includes helping local residents get back on the road as well if their own cars are damaged or even destroyed," the statement said.
"Because of our extensive car rental network, Enterprise is able to transport and relocate thousands of vehicles from neighboring cities and nearby states as quickly as possible. For example, in North Carolina alone, we were able to expand our local fleet by more than 3,000 vehicles in direct response to the storm and flooding. As a result, we take great pride in our ability to provide critical and strategic transportation services during such harrowing times. "
The state is investigating almost 200 price gouging complaints, and consumers can report suspected price gouging online at ncdoj.gov or by phone to 1-877-5-NO-SCAM (toll-free within North Carolina).