Companies are being accused of price gouging on food, water, and gas during Hurricane Florence

Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesVolunteers from all over North Carolina helped rescue residents from their flooded homes in New Bern, North Carolina, during Hurricane Florence.
  • Victims of Hurricane Florence say some businesses in North Carolina have been charging rip-off prices for basics like food, water, and gas.
  • The North Carolina Attorney General’s Office has received about 500 allegations that businesses have broken the state’s price-gouging law.
  • Attorney General John Stein on Sunday said the complaints were mainly about food, gas, and hotel rooms.
  • Hurricane Florence has killed at least 17 people and set rainfall records across the state. The worst flooding may be yet to come.

Companies in North Carolina are being accused of charging exorbitant prices for food, water, and gas during what is now known as Tropical Depression Florence.

State officials have received about 500 complaints that companies have breached the state’s price-gouging laws, which bars people from charging “unreasonably excessive” prices during an official state of emergency.

North Carolina’s attorney general, John Stein, announced the 500 complaints on Sunday, mostly against hotels and gas stations.

The law against price gouging took effect September 7 when Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency ahead of Hurricane Florence’s expected landfall. It lasts until the state of emergency ends.

A statement on the attorney general’s website says the office will look to take action against any businesses found to be price gouging.

Businesses found guilty can be hit with fines of $US5,000 for each violation and be forced to refund their customers.

“Attorney General Stein and the North Carolina Department of Justice will be reviewing complaints from consumers closely over the next several weeks and are prepared to take action against any businesses engaging in price gouging activities,” it says.

“My office is here to protect North Carolinians from scams and frauds,” Stein said.

At least 17 people have been killed by Hurricane Florence in North Carolina and South Carolina. The storm’s full force has been felt since Friday, and the worst flooding could be yet to come even though Florence has been formally downgraded to a tropical depression.

Cooper said at a news conference on Sunday that the storm had “never been more dangerous than it is right now.”

“Wherever you live in North Carolina, be alert for sudden flooding,” he said.

Price gouging is not unusual after large natural disasters. Reports of price gouging – including $US20 for a gallon of gas and $US99 for a case of water – spiked in the areas of Texas most affected by Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

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