Local News

Easley Signs Price-Gouging Bill Into Law

Posted August 15, 2003

— If there is flooding damage in homes or downed trees from ice storms, people will take advantage of others who are down on their luck.

Starting Thursday, charging exorbitant prices for services or items after a natural disaster will come with a price of its own.

It has been four years since a killer Hurricane hit North Carolina. Destruction from Fran and Floyd taught many lessons -- some of them bitter ones.

Repair scams made Robert McKee infamous. He took $250,000 from victims for repairs he never made. Elsewhere, there were phony fund raisers for victims.

Price gouging left some storm victims victimized a second time. The elderly were among the prey, paying thousands of dollars for tree removal. One of the most common complaints during Hurricane Floyd was that a $1 bag of ice often was going for $5 to $6 a bag.

With a stroke of his pen Thursday, Gov. Mike Easley signed a new law prohibiting price gouging during and after natural disasters. Charging excessive prices for goods and services is now outlawed.

It is the first North Carolina law dealing with price gouging.

"Most of these businesses do a very good job of helping people," Attorney General Roy Cooper said. "But there are some people who will crawl out from under a rock and take advantage of people who are in need."

Nash County Sen. A.B. Swindell modeled the legislation after the laws in other states.

"That can be enforced that will deter people from doing this and send a clear message across North Carolina that you are not going to take advantage of people when they are going through difficult times created by disasters," Swindell said.

In the future, the Attorney General will investigate all complaints of price gouging and prosecute those responsible.

Price gouging will not pay for the offenders, but it will for the victims. A judge could fine violators $5,000 per violation and award triple damages to victims.

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