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Woman says she paid $9.99/gallon at Charlotte gas station, customers file complaints

Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 1:46 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Customers made at least six complaints of price gouging to the North Carolina Department of Justice as a Charlotte gas station reportedly charged $9.99 per gallon during an ongoing gas shortage in the state.

Clarissa Rankin, a truck driver, says she was filling up her personal car Wednesday night at Mobil/Queens Market on West Sugar Creek Road and said it was $9.99 per gallon for for the middle grade which is labeled as “Extra.”

“That was for my personal car just to get back and forth to work and then only was able to get nine gallons of gas, and that’s it. They cut it off after nine gallons - so $90 for nine gallons,” Rankin said.

Rankin says she was told she could only get nine gallons.

The gas station’s owner, Rey Shah, denies any intention of price gouging. Both Shah and employees at the gas station say the prices are so high to deter people from draining the pumps.

“I promise you there’s no price gouging. We’re not in this to make a quick buck,” Shah said.

The owner also said they’ve put bags and signs on the pumps but people have been taking them off to still use the machines.

In an interview with WBTV, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein spoke about price gouging complaints.

“North Carolina’s price gouging law comes into effect whenever there is declared a state of emergency and it prohibits any seller from charging an unreasonably excessive price,” Stein said. “Now what determines whether it’s unreasonably excessive is what did they pay for it to buy the supply? What had they charged for it before the emergency began and what are they charging for it now? And so each complaint needs to be investigated independently.”

The North Carolina Department of Justice says they’ve gotten six complaints against this gas station as of 9:58 a.m. Thursday.

At 10:47 a.m., the prices at the gas station were $3.19 regular and $3.29 diesel. After about 30 minutes, the prices were updated to $2.99 regular and $3.29 diesel.

The national regular gas price average is currently $3.02 according to AAA.

As of 9:58 a.m., NCDOJ has received a total of 622 complaints across the state.

“Our office will be looking into each complaint and reaching out to companies to get their side of the story before taking any action,” a spokesperson said.

North Carolina’s price gouging law is officially in effect as the state is in a state of emergency in response to the temporary shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline. The pipeline was shut down after a ransomware cyberattack.

“If you desperately need gas and you’re being charged a price where you’ve been ripped off, file a complaint with my office, we will look into it and if it’s price gouging we will go after them,” Stein said. “It’s a case by case situation, we have to look at what did they [the store] pay for that gas before the crisis hit and what they’re charging for it now, and if they’ve substantially increased their price unreasonably so - that would be price gouging and we will not hesitate to go after any price gougers if we find them”

North Carolina’s law against price gouging, or charging too much in times of a crisis, goes into effect when the governor declares a state of emergency. In some cases, businesses and industries that are heavily impacted by the incident causing the state of emergency have a reasonable need to increase prices in order to resupply, but they should disclose these increases and allow people to make informed purchasing decisions.

Businesses cannot unreasonably raise the price of goods or services to profit from a state of emergency.

Please report potential price gouging by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or by filing a complaint at ncdoj.gov/file-a-complaint/price-gouging. They say their office “reviews price gouging complaints closely and Attorney General Stein is prepared to take action against any person or business engaging in price gouging.”

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