Attorneys General from several states join forces to examine rising prices at the pump
Raleigh: Attorney General Roy Cooper today joined attorneys general from Florida, Alabama and other states to launch an inquiry into rapidly rising gas prices.
“It’s wrong to take unfair advantage of consumers in a time of crisis,” said Cooper. “We want to get to the bottom of skyrocketing gas prices and plan to examine all aspects of the industry, from refineries and pipelines to the price people pay at the pump.”
Gas prices across North Carolina and much of the nation have risen steadily following Hurricane Katrina’s devastating strike on the Gulf Coast. Cooper and attorneys general from more than 30 states have signed on to an inquiry to determine whether the dramatic increase in gas prices is due solely to legitimate market forces or whether illegal activity is contributing to the problem.
There are many global factors impacting gas prices that are beyond the authority of the Attorney General’s Office, including the shut down of oil refineries along the Gulf Coast in the wake of Katrina, but Cooper’s office vowed to take action against any illegal activity surrounding gas sales in North Carolina.
North Carolina has laws against price fixing, which can occur when competitors agree together to raise or fix their prices, and unfair trade practices. Cooper has encouraged any consumers who have evidence of price fixing or other illegal activity by gas stations in their area to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office.
North Carolina’s law against price gouging—or charging too much in times of crisis—is not currently in effect because the state is not under a disaster declaration. Cooper plans to examine the price gouging law to see if it should be expanded to apply to shortages of essential commodities. Any change in the law would require legislative action.
Cooper also wrote this week to the Federal Trade Commission asking it to monitor the gasoline market in North Carolina for any illegal practices.
Consumers who wish to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division can download a complaint form at www.ncdoj.com under “Consumer Protection” or can call 1-877-5-NO-SCAM to receive a complaint form in the mail. People can also file complaints about high gas prices with the U.S. Department of Energy at http://gaswatch.energy.gov/ .
“I believe that most businesses in North Carolina want to play by the rules,” said Cooper. “But if there are a few bad apples out there who are trying to make an unfair profit, we’ll take action to protect North Carolina consumers.”