When is 'gouging' not really gouging?

ByTonya Simpson via WTVD logo
Thursday, September 13, 2018

With Hurricane Florence bearing down on the North Carolina coast many people are trying to stock up on water, gas, batteries and other storm essentials.

As supplies run low, there are plenty of concerns about price gouging, or charging unreasonably excessive prices.

North Carolina's price gouging law is currently in effect. The law is typically triggered when the state suffers from or is threatened by a natural disaster.

Under the law, price gougers can be charged up to $5,000 per violation.

So how exactly gouging determined? Under the law, there are three main points to consider:

  1. Is the higher price charged by the seller due to increased costs by the supplier or an increase in the cost of providing the good or service?
  2. Does the price charged by the seller exceed the average price in the prior 60 days?
  3. Is the higher price charged by the seller due to fluctuations in the market or market trends?

A lot of pictures are making the rounds on social media of some brands of water selling for $30-$40 or more. It sounds absurd, but simple math shows it's likely not price gouging. If a single 1-liter bottle of Smartwater sells for between $1.59 - $2.79 per bottle, that means a case of 24 bottles would sell for $38.16 - $66.96

Attorney General Josh Stein said most price gouging is very obvious. "If they see a gas station charging $6 or $7 a gallon or vendors selling milk for $10 a gallon, something that doesn't seem right, let us know and we can look into it."

The price gouging law applies to sellers, distributors, and manufacturers and can stay in effect 45 days after the state of emergency is lifted.

If you believe that a business is engaged in price gouging you should report them to the North Carolina Attorney General's Office.