Local News

Subpoenas keep coming in gasoline-price investigation

Posted September 22, 2008 3:16 p.m. EDT
Updated September 22, 2008 8:53 p.m. EDT

— The state Monday subpoenaed records from the owners of three gasoline stations as part of Attorney General Roy Cooper’s probe of possible price-gouging before Hurricane Ike hit Texas.

The subpoenas for information about prices charged at stations in Charlotte and Yadkinville bring the number of gas stations under investigation to 26.

“Consumers deserve to be treated fairly when they fill up,” Cooper said in a statement. “If we uncover evidence that Hurricane Ike was used illegally to run up prices and gouge consumers, we’ll take legal action.”

Last week, Cooper’s office sent subpoenas to owners of 23 gas stations that reportedly sold gas for more than $5.35 a gallon 10 days ago as Ike took aim at the Texas Gulf Coast. Fears that the storm would cripple U.S. oil-refining capacity prompted runs on area gas stations, and many drivers were outraged that prices skyrocketed overnight.

More than 4,300 reports of possible gas-price gouging have been filed with the Attorney General's Office since Sept. 12.

The stations previously subpoenaed are in Anson, Ashe, Buncombe, Cherokee, Craven, Cumberland, Guilford, Iredell, McDowell, Montgomery, Stanley, Transylvania and Yadkin counties. The three stations in Monday's round of subpoenas reportedly charged between $4.49 and $5.35 per gallon.

Retailers have 10 days to provide documentation to the Attorney General’s Office, including information on their costs.

Companies face a civil penalty of up to $5,000 for each violation of the state price-gouging law. Those who demonstrate that they were simply passing along sudden increases in their wholesale costs won't be penalized under the state price-gouging law.

“Our price-gouging law gives us the tools to go after retailers, distributors or wholesalers if they try to run up prices unfairly during a time of disruption,” Cooper said. “The law also serves as a deterrent to price gouging throughout the supply chain.”