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Price-gouging investigation nets $56,000 in refunds

Posted June 3, 2009

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— Attorney General Roy Cooper said Wednesday that his office has won more than $56,000 in consumer refunds, energy assistance funds and civil penalties from 11 gas stations as part of a price-gouging investigation that started after Hurricane Ike last fall.

The Attorney General's Office also has filed suit against the owners of three gas stations.

“People let us know about suspected price gouging, and we took action,” Cooper said in a statement. “We’ve put money back in consumers’ pockets and sent a strong message that we won’t tolerate those who try to make an unfair profit off of a disaster.”

The state began investigating possible price-gouging by North Carolina gas stations after thousands of consumer complaints started pouring in hours after Ike struck the Texas Gulf Coast on Sept. 12. Former Gov. Mike Easley activated the state's price-gouging law because the storm knocked refineries off line and created a market disruption.

Cooper said he filed suit Wednesday against LR&S Inc., alleging that it raised gas prices from under $4 a gallon to $5.68 a gallon at two Yadkinville stations. The increase raised the company’s mark-up over wholesale costs by more than 400 percent, according to the suit, which is seeking refunds and civil penalties.

The owner of a Greensboro gas station also has agreed to pay more than $5,400 in refunds and penalties to resolve allegations that it gouged customers by charging $5.20 a gallon for gas in Ike's aftermath, Cooper said.

The Attorney General's Office previously won consumer refunds, civil penalties for public schools and payments to special funds to provide energy assistance to low-income North Carolinians from the owners of gas stations in Fayetteville, Murphy, Marble, Hayesville, Jefferson, Old Fort, Asheville and McLeansville.

A lawsuit against the owner of a Troy gas station is pending, and investigators found that 12 other station owners didn't violate the price-gouging law.

Cooper said his office is still investigating possible price gouging by gas wholesalers and distributors.

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  • jsanders Jun 4, 2009

    This is so ridiculous. I wonder how much it cost Cooper's office to extort $56,000 from small business owners. The whole "price-gouging" law is stupidity squared.

    Higher prices owing to a temporary scarcity (such as supply disruption from a hurricane) help people to ration their consumption VOLUNTARILY as well as discourage hoarding. NC didn't have gasoline shortages after Katrina and Rita; it was only after the price-gouging law and Cooper's threats to enforce it did shortages happen.

    And now, the state is considering a law to FORCE RATIONING the next time they FORCE PRICES to remain unchanged after a supply disruption: http://www.johnlocke.org/lockerroom/lockerroom.html?id=20017

  • HadEnough Jun 4, 2009

    I hope everyone realizes this is politically motivated propaganda.
    It took 9 months to figure out they were gouging?!!!!!
    Come on Roy. I guess he had to first make sure none of the gas stations belonged to a good ole boy.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Jun 4, 2009

    TruthBKnown, so you're not for a free market? You think that gov't should step in and control a private business? If a $50 chainsaw in Iowa goes for $500 in New Orleans...why would a real "free market" person care? Isn't real estate all about location, location, location? I just don't see your basis for gov't control & regulation...if you're against gov't control and regulation.

    Don't get me wrong, I think we should nail price gougers...but I'm not telling the world that gov't shouldn't regulate anyone anywhere.

  • anonemoose Jun 3, 2009

    If nobody would pay that much for the gas, they wouldn't sell it for that.

  • seankelly15 Jun 3, 2009

    TruthBKnown - "Democrats' are not stopping anyone from building refineries nor are they blocking anyone from drilling in the areas already leased. But, they will block attempts by the oil companies from putting our land in danger and then selling the raw products to Asia. You do know where the Alaskan crude goes to, don't you? It will be the same thing if the move into the protected areas of Alaska - more oil will be shipped to China and Japan. Do not for one moment trot out the worn belief that oil drilled and refined in this country stays in this country.

  • Fed-up29 Jun 3, 2009

    who cares...we aren't getting any of the money back ourselves and we just paid extra by using tax payer dollars to recover it

  • TruthBKnown Banned Again02 Jun 3, 2009

    If democrats would let us drill more, build more refineries, etc., price-gouging would not happen with gas prices. It's you democrats that we have to thank for that!

  • TruthBKnown Banned Again02 Jun 3, 2009

    "So, all Republicans and other "less gubmint" folks think price gouging is ok, right? I meand, don't you say that a private business should be allowed to charge "whatever the market will bear?""

    What makes you people think republicans support price gouging??? Generally-speaking, yes, the market should be allowed to set the price. But there are laws against price-gouging, like in the case where a hurricane hits and people want to charge $500 for a $50 chainsaw because they know they can get that much. I fully support that type of law. You have republicans pegged completely wrong.

  • commonsensical Jun 3, 2009

    It's only gouging IF those stations were the only places to get gas within say 50 miles. Otherwise, consumers that purchased gas at those prices were stupid and deserved to pay the price they paid.

  • whatusay Jun 3, 2009

    When people stop buying gasoline the price will go down.

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