Hundreds of gas price gouging complaints pour into state Department of Justice

ASHEBORO, N.C. -- The pumps at many gas stations are covered up -- some with signs attached -- letting potential customers know they are out of gas.

As some feel desperate to find gas, they admit, they're willing to pay -- even if it's a little more than they'd like.

"Whatever I can find, I'm going to get at this point in time," said Lauren Kime, while filling up her tank in Asheboro.

The Attorney General's Office issued a reminder this morning that the state price gouging law is in effect and those found guilty of it could face a fine up to $5,000 per case.

The North Carolina Department of Justice considers a few factors when determining if something is in fact price gouging. There is no magic number, but investigators will consider things like the average price of gasoline over the last 60 days, as well as what extra costs the seller incurred to get gas during the high demand period.

Charlie Hayes said he believes he was a victim of price gouging at the EZ Stop gas station on East Dixie Drive in Asheboro on Sunday. He claims that, when he got in line to get gas, the price read $2.17. By the time he got to the pump 15 minutes later, he said the price had shot up to $2.54 per gallon.

"I can understand a little bit of cost increase based on supply and demand," he said. "But when it's happening that quickly -- to me, that's excessive."

The owner of the gas station, Prashant Patel, defended the gas station, saying they were merely keeping up with prices in the area.

"We picked the price compared to another gas station," he said.

Hayes said he filed a complaint with the NCDOJ.

"We would never expect to get anything back," he said. "It's just the idea of taking advantage of a situation that people have no control over."

The NCDOJ has not made a determination in that case.

To file a price gouging complaint with the NCDOJ, you can visit its website or call 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.