Companies are being accused of price-gouging on food, water, and gas during Hurricane Florence

  • Victims of Hurricane Florence say that business in North Carolina have been charging rip-off prices for basics like food, water, and gas.

  • The North Carolina Attorney General's office has received around 500 allegations that businesses have broken the state's price-gouging law.

  • Attorney General John Stein said on Sunday that the complaints are mainly about food, gas, and hotel rooms.

  • Hurricane Florence has killed at least 17 people and set rainfall records across the state. The worst flooding may be yet to come.

Companies in North Carolina are being accused of ramping up their prices to excessive levels on on food, water, and gas during Hurricane Florence.

State officials have received around 500 complaints that companies have breached the state's price gouging laws, which bans charging "unreasonably excessive" prices during an official state of emergency.

North Carolina Attorney General John Stein announced the 500 complaints on Sunday, mostly against hotels and gas stations.

The law against price gouging came into effect on September 7 when North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency, and lasts until the state of emergency ends.

A statement on the attorney general's website states that the office will look to take action against any businesses found to be price gouging.

Businesses found guilty can be hit with fines of $5,000 per violation, and be forced to refund their customers.

"Attorney General Stein and the North Carolina Department of Justice will be reviewing complaints from consumers closely over the next several weeks and are prepared to take action against any businesses engaging in price gouging activities," it says.

"My office is here to protect North Carolinians from scams and frauds," Stein said.

At least 17 people have been killed by Hurricane Florence in North and South Carolina. The hurricane's full force has been felt since Friday, and the worst flooding could be yet to come, even though Florence has been formally downgraded to a Tropical Depression.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said at a news conference on Sunday that the storm has "never been more dangerous than it is right now."

"Wherever you live in North Carolina, be alert for sudden flooding."

Price-gouging is not unusual in the wake of large natural disasters. Reports of price-gouging — including $20 for a gallon of gas and $99 for a case of water — spiked in the areas of Texas most affected by Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

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