In the aftermath of a natural disaster, Good Samaritans often undertake selfless acts to help their neighbors or complete strangers.
Others try to take advantage of people’s desperation with high prices.
In North Carolina, charging high prices for goods and services during disasters can be illegal, in violation of the state’s anti-price-gouging laws. And on Friday, when Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency due to Hurricane Florence, that put the state’s anti-price gouging laws into effect.
They will remain in place until the state of emergency ends, some time after the storm.
In the meanwhile, anyone who suspects price gouging — businesses charging thousands of dollars to remove a single fallen tree or rent out a hotel room, $10-per gallon gas, etc. — can report it to the state attorney general’s office for an investigation.
News & Observer reports from the time show that after Hurricane Fran, one of the big opportunities for exorbitant prices was tree and debris removal. One man was even arrested for charging an elderly woman $18,000 to remove two fallen trees — the equivalent of nearly $29,000 today — according to a 1996 News & Observer article.
“If prices are allowed to rise as the demand increases, this ‘hoarding’ behavior will become increasingly more expensive and therefore discouraged,” wrote economist Roy Cordato of the conservative John Locke Foundation think tank. “In other words, the higher price encourages conservation right at the time when it is most needed. This will leave more gasoline in the tanks at the gas stations where it is available for those who really need it both before the hurricane and during its immediate aftermath, instead of in the tanks of cars that are sitting in people’s garages or driveways.”
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