Wildfires Prompt Price Gouging Law to Go into Effect in Twenty-Five North Carolina Counties
Several counties in the western part of the state are now seeing wildfires
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has declared a state of emergency due to wildfires burning in several counties in western NC, leading to the implementation of the state's price gouging law.
Consumers are being encouraged by North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper to report any instances of price gouging in the area that they observe.
"Firefighters are battling to control the blazes and we hope they'll soon succeed," Cooper said. "When emergencies like wildfires happen, North Carolina law protects you from price gouging. Let us know about anyone using these fires to make an unfair profit."
The price gouging law is in effect in the following 25 counties under the state of emergency: Alexander, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Cherokee, Clay, Cleveland, Gaston, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Lincoln, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga, and Yancey.
Cooper's office is currently investigating numerous businesses accused of price gouging due to pipeline problems and Hurricane Matthew.
Anyone renting a vacation home in North Carolina's mountains in the coming weeks should carefully read the rental agreement and learn the protections offered by state law. In particular, the Vacation Rental Act protects anyone renting a North Carolina property for fewer than 90 days. Anyone forced to cancel their rental plans because of the fires should consult the rental agreement to find out how to cancel and determine if they are entitled to a refund.
Upon signing a vacation rental agreement, consumers are sometimes offered insurance by the landlord for an additional fee in order to cover the cost of nights missed because of a mandatory evacuation. Under state law, consumers who are ordered to evacuate and who were not provided the opportunity to buy insurance, the landlord is required to refund the consumers' money for each missed night. Landlords do not have to refund money in the event of mandatory evacuations to renters who were offered insurance and chose not to accept it.
Consumers with hotel reservations in the areas affected by the fires should contact their hotel immediately if the fires interfere with their plans. Refund eligibility for those who paid in advance will depend on the hotel's cancelation policy and the particular circumstances.
For more information or to report an instance of price gouging, consumers should contact the North Carolina Attorney General's Office.