"Most businesses do the honorable thing and keep their prices fair regardless of what disaster strikes," said Cooper. "But for anyone who tries to profit unfairly off a natural disaster, let me remind them that we'll be watching and we'll hold them accountable."
A new North Carolina law bars price gouging and gives Cooper the authority to enforce the measure, which was passed by the General Assembly in July and signed into law by Gov. Mike Easley in August just in time for the height of hurricane season.
Under the law, Cooper can put a stop to price gouging and seek refunds for consumers who paid too much. The courts may also impose civil penalties against price gougers of up to $5,000 for each violation of the law.
The statute prohibits businesses from charging unreasonably excessive prices for goods and services during a declared state of emergency. The Attorney General's Office is directed by the new law to evaluate allegations of price gouging based on pre-disaster prices adjusted for any added costs sellers may face under emergency conditions.
Consumers who encounter possible price gouging should report it to Cooper's Consumer Protection Division at (919 716-6000.
"This law makes it clear that we will not tolerate price gouging here in North Carolina," said Cooper. "If you believe that someone is trying to overcharge you following a disaster, let my office know about it."