Price gouging law in effect for gas shortage

Published 11:19 am Tuesday, September 20, 2016

North Carolina’s law against price gouging is currently in effect due to limited supplies of gasoline caused by a leak in a pipeline that carries gas from the Gulf Coast to North Carolina and other southeastern states.

As of 11 am on Monday, more than 400 consumers had filed complaints online or via a toll-free hotline to report potential gas price gouging the state’s Consumer Protection Division.

“Consumers are our eyes and ears on the ground and we want to know if you spot potential gas price gouging,” said NC Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Meanwhile, AAA of the Carolinas advises motorists in North and South Carolina to expect increases at the gas pump in the wake of the shortage due to the Colonial Pipeline leak.

The Carolinas are seeing temporarily higher prices due to a pipeline disruption moving shipments from the Gulf Coast. Colonial Pipeline operators are currently working to repair the pipeline and expect to re-start the movement of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from Texas and Louisiana refineries to a number of Gulf Coast and southeastern states sometime this week. The Colonial Pipeline disruption could contribute to the availability of supply and North and South Carolina may see higher prices until normal shipments resume.

“We want to remind motorists that this issue is temporary and to continue normal habits at the pump,” said AAA Carolinas Public Relations Manager Tiffany Wright. “AAA Carolinas continues to give members peace of mind during this time, and our roadside service will not be affected by this supply issue.”

As of Monday of this week, North Carolina’s average price of gasoline is currently $2.16, up slightly from last week’s average of $2.05. South Carolina motorists are seeing an average price of $2.04, up from last week’s average of $1.91. Despite the recent increases, both of the Carolinas are still seeing gas prices under the national average of $2.20.

Price gouging—or charging too much in times of crisis—is against North Carolina law when a disaster, an emergency or an abnormal market disruption for critical goods and services is declared or proclaimed by the Governor. The law applies to all levels of the supply chain from the manufacturer to the distributor to the retailer.

The price gouging law is currently in effect due to a market disruption for gasoline declared late Friday.

North Carolina law (Chapter 75-38) defines price gouging as charging “a price that is unreasonably excessive under the circumstances.” There is no set price or percentage increase defined in the law so the law can apply to different products and services in times of crisis. In this case, the law has in effect specifically to prevent gas price gouging. If a gas price looks excessive, report it and we will look into it.

You can report price gouging three ways:

File a complaint online at

Mail a complaint to: Consumer Protection Division, Attorney General’s Office, Mail Service Center 9001, Raleigh, NC 27699-9001

Call 1-877-5-NO-SCAM (toll-free within North Carolina) or 919-716-6000.

It’s helpful if you can provide receipts if you purchased gas, or photos of gas station price signs you spot.

North Carolina’s Consumer Protection Division follows up on complaints of potential price gouging to determine if the law has been violated. They use information provided by consumers, including first-hand reports, receipts, and photos of gas station price signs. They contact gas stations about reports received and also look at the costs gas stations are charged by their suppliers.

Price gougers can face fines of up to $5,000 for each violation under North Carolina law. According to the state Constitution, all fines go to support the public schools.

In 2008, North Carolina faced a similar gas crisis when Gulf Coast refineries shut down.