North Carolina

800+ price gouging complaints filed in NC in wake of Florence and Michael

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) - North Carolina’s price gouging law remains in effect despite the fact that the two hurricanes that hit the state are long gone.

In the wake of the storms, the North Carolina Attorney General says his office is now dealing with hundreds and hundreds of complaints.

When storms like Florence and Michael hit the state, North Carolinians banded together to help each other, but there are some people who took advantage of the situation.

“We’ve had over 800 complaints of price gouging,” says Attorney General Josh Stein. “Not every complaint is a violation of the law, but we are looking into them.” 

North Carolina's price gouging law went into effect when the state of emergency was declared. 

As the storms forced many people to evacuate, they needed a place to stay and Stein says some of them may have been ripped off. 

“We have some investigations outstanding about some hotels, but we haven’t got the full array of information we need to make a determination of whether there was a violation of the law,” he said.

The hurricane downed scores of trees which then needed to be cut up and removed.

In Wilmington, there were several cases of tree removal companies accused of price gouging.

As a result, lawsuits were filed by the attorney general against three out of state tree companies who are accused of price gouging.

“We have a temporary restraining order in place for up to 10 days,” said Stein. “We’ll go back to court to get a preliminary injunction to shut them down while litigation is ongoing.”

In one suit, Action Tree Pros out of Kentucky said it would cost $5,000 to remove a tree but then submitted a bill for over $10,000.

The suit says that when the property manager told them to stop work the company ignored her and then sub-contracted with Premier Landscaping and Lawncare to take down other trees at excessive prices. 

“They did five trees altogether,” said Stein. “One tree was $29,000 and five trees were $78,000."

A reporter from CBS 17's sister station in Kentucky was unable to get a comment from either firm’s owners.

In another case, the attorney general says an Ohio-based tree company submitted a bill for over $14,000 without having the customer’s agreement.

Court documents say the company came to this price without permission from or discussion with the homeowners.

The lawsuit alleges that Scotts Tree Service had one of the homeowners sign a statement of work to be done, and later filled in the document with a $14,500 amount the homeowner had not agreed to pay.

“Then they referred it to a debt collecting company out of Massachusetts,” said Stein.

The attorney general alleges the Goldberg & Donovan collection agency does not have the proper registration or permit to operate in North Carolina.

The suit also alleges that they engaged in prohibited debt collection tactics, including pretending to be an attorney, harassing the homeowners, and making threats.

When the cases are litigated, the attorney general's office wants those companies to be permanently prohibited from ever doing business again in the state.

Because the price gouging law is still in effect, you can file a complaint here with the attorney general’s office if you believe you are being taken advantage of by a company.  


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