North Carolina’s Attorney General has issued a warning to blizzard profiteers: The state’s 10-year-old law against price gouging is now in effect.
The law is triggered when a state governor declares of a state of emergency. It prohibits businesses from charging excessive prices and carries a fine of$5,000 per violation.
The law is designed to prevent price gouging during storms and other natural disasters, when the water, gasoline and other staples become scarce and desperate people are willing to pay a premium to buy essential goods and services.
The AG has enforced the law in the past to win $71,000 from 14 gas stations in 2008. Numerous states have such laws on the books.
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Free-market advocates have criticized anti-price gouging laws as government interference with the law of supply and demand. In 2008, the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh blasted North Carolina’s law and said that inflated prices during times of shortage encourage conservation and stem consumer greed. The organization said no price can be deemed excessive if a consumer is willing to pay it.