Go after them

Published 11:10 pm Tuesday, September 16, 2008

By Staff
Almost as soon as gasoline prices in North Carolina began skyrocketing Friday afternoon, N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper warned that his office would investigate complaints about price gouging as the result of Hurricane Ike.
More than 2,500 consumers complained about price gouging during the weekend. The attorney general’s spokeswoman, Noelle Talley, said Cooper’s office expected to send subpoenas to several gas stations in North Carolina. On Friday, Cooper said anyone who believes they experienced price gouging should file a complaint with his office.
Cooper, who handled complaints from irate consumers on Saturday, said his office will take action if it discovers any instances of price gouging.
The attorney general’s office will look for ‘‘unreasonably excessive’’ prices, Cooper said, according to a report by The Associated Press. ‘‘It’s one of those things where you know it when you see it.’’
On Friday, Gov. Mike Easley declared a state of abnormal market disruption, signing an order that allows the attorney general to enforce North Carolina’s anti-gouging law. That same day, gas prices in Beaufort County and surrounding areas jumped dramatically, reaching a high of $4.79 for a gallon of regular gas. The previous day, a gallon of regular gas was selling for under $4 a gallon at most, if not all, area gas stations.
On Monday, AAA of the Carolinas officials said the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in North Carolina is up to $4.085 a gallon, more than 50 cents higher that it was last week.
Such a jump in prices should be investigated.
The City of Washington offered to help anyone who believes they were a victim of price gouging file a complaint. As of Monday, anyone wishing to report price gouging within the city could come to the clerk’s office at City Hall and sign an affidavit concerning the prices they experienced. Those affidavits will be forwarded to the attorney general.
Kudos to the city for providing that assistance to consumers.
It’s understandable there were concerns about Hurricane Ike causing great damage to refineries in its path. It’s understandable those refineries were shut down a couple of days before Hurricane Ike hit the Texas coast and refineries. It’s understandable that the law of supply and demand would result in an increase in gasoline prices, but increases of 50 cents or more a gallon are questionable.
It’s as if Big Oil decided it has the supply of gasoline and chose to demand more money for it. Looks like Big Oil will have big profits for this quarter.
Many consumers view the increase in gasoline prices as Big Oil having them over a barrel. Those consumers question, and rightly so, the skyrocketing prices they encountered late last week and during this past weekend.
Roy Cooper isn’t alone in his hunt for price gouging. Florida’s attorney general issued subpoenas to determine if consumers in that state experience price gouging. Officials in other Southern states activated anti-price gouging laws and warned consumers to watch for unreasonable increases in gasoline prices.
Any gas station in North Carolina guilty of price gouging should have to face the music, as Cooper noted.
And that music should be as unpleasant as possible.
Go get’em, Roy.