Price gouging law in effect as tourists evacuate Outer Banks islands

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN/AP) – North Carolina’s price gouging law is now in effect for Dare and Hyde counties after the governor proclaimed a state of emergency Thursday evening, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

Around 10,000 tourists have been asked to leave Ocracoke and Hatteras islands after a underwater power line was damaged, causing a power outage for the islands, officials said.

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Once the governor declares a disaster or emergency in the state, the price gouging law goes into effect.

Under the law, the Attorney General’s Office can put a stop to price gouging and seek refunds for consumers who paid too much. The courts may also impose civil penalties against price gougers of up to $5,000 for each violation.

The power went out about 4:30 a.m. Thursday. Officials said about 9,000 customers are without power on the two islands — about 7,700 on Hatteras and another 1,300 on Ocracoke.

The Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative said in a news release Thursday that PCL Construction told the utility it had driven a steel casing into an electric transmission cable while working on the new Bonner Bridge on the state’s coast, inadvertently cutting off power to Ocracoke and Hatteras islands.

“PCL is actively working with NCDOT and Cape Hatteras Electric to determine the exact cause of the power outage south of the Bonner Bridge. At this time, our primary concern is to ensure that we are doing everything we can to assist in restoring power as quickly as possible,” PCL said in a statement to CBS North Carolina.

The electric cooperative said power is currently available for Buxton, Frisco and part of Hatteras Village through a diesel generating plant. The cooperative said it also would initiate rolling blackouts, but only if people turn off air conditioning units and minimize other electrical usage. Ten portable generators were being brought in.

The outage comes during peak tourist season, which runs from mid-June through Labor Day.

If you feel you’ve been a victim of price gouging, let the Attorney General’s office know. Call toll free – 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.

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