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N.C. price gouging law in effect amid temporary pipeline shutdown

Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 3:18 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - North Carolina’s price gouging law is officially in effect as the state is in a state of emergency in response to the temporary shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline. The pipeline was shut down after a ransomware cyberattack.

“The hackers who breached Colonial Pipeline’s systems have made it harder for hardworking North Carolinians to go about their lives, but I will not allow businesses to take advantage of this incident to charge excessive prices,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “North Carolina’s price gouging law is in effect – please let my office know if businesses or people might be trying to profit off this situation so we can hold them accountable.”

North Carolina’s law against price gouging, or charging too much in times of a crisis, goes into effect when the governor declares a state of emergency. In some cases, businesses and industries that are heavily impacted by the incident causing the state of emergency have a reasonable need to increase prices in order to resupply, but they should disclose these increases and allow people to make informed purchasing decisions.

Businesses cannot, however, unreasonably raise the price of goods or services to profit from a state of emergency.

WBTV confirmed that there have been at least five reports of price gouging at a Gastonia gas station. WBTV received several tips from viewers that the Gastonia Express on S. York Road was increasing its prices.

Viewers sent photos saying gas was being charged at $4.99 a gallon. When a reporter got to the station, some of the pumps were marked at $3.99 a gallon.

The manager of the Gastonia Express was unable to make a comment.

Please report potential price gouging by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or by filing a complaint at https://ncdoj.gov/file-a-complaint/price-gouging/. They say their office “reviews price gouging complaints closely and Attorney General Stein is prepared to take action against any person or business engaging in price gouging.”

Governor Roy Cooper is telling residents “please don’t rush to top off your tanks” as a major pipeline recovers from a cyber attack over the weekend.

On Monday, Gov. Cooper issued a state of emergency allowing for fuel transportation waivers in the wake of the cyber attack on the Colonial Pipeline.

In response to the temporary shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline, Gov. Cooper signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency in North Carolina and temporarily suspending motor vehicle fuel regulations to ensure adequate fuel supply supplies throughout the state.

On May 7, 2021, the Colonial Pipeline system reported a ransomware cyber-attack, resulting in a temporary shutdown of that line. The Colonial Pipeline is a primary fuel pipeline for North Carolina.

But on Tuesday, after multiple reports of gas stations running out of gas and people lining up at the pumps all over the Carolinas, the governor wants to remind residents not to panic.

“I have talked today with federal officials including Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and we have a full court press to get the Colonial Pipeline back up and fully operating quickly. Report price gouging and please don’t rush to top off your tanks,” Gov. Cooper tweeted.

Colonial Pipeline says it hopes to have service mostly restored by the end of the week after halting operations because of a ransomware attack the FBI has linked to a criminal gang.

The ransomware attack on the pipeline, which the company says delivers roughly 45 percent of fuel consumed on the U.S. East Coast, raised concerns that supplies of gasoline, jet fuel and diesel could be disrupted in parts of the region if the disruption continues.

At the moment, though, officials said there is no fuel shortage.

The Colonial Pipeline transports gasoline and other fuel through 10 states between Texas and New Jersey, according to the company.

Colonial is in the process of restarting portions of its network. It said Sunday that its main pipeline remained offline, but that some smaller lines were operational. The company has not said when it would completely restart the pipeline.

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