March 18, 2015


BOC chairman sends another letter
on Dare County gas prices


By IRENE NOLAN

Bob Woodard, chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners, has sent a second letter to state Attorney General Roy Cooper asking for him to investigate gas prices in Dare County.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Justice said this week that the department's Consumer Affairs Division continues to investigate the complaint.

Woodard sent a first letter to Cooper on Jan. 20 at the request of the Board of Commissioners who had heard complaints from some Outer Banks residents.

"The prices that are being forced on our residents and visitors far exceed the prices elsewhere in our region and the average rate in North Carolina," Woodard wrote.

On Jan. 30, Dare County manager Bobby Outten received a phone call from Phil Wood, the Attorney General’s Deputy Director for Consumer Protection. According to a Dare County news release, Wood told Outten that the Attorney General’s Office "takes the issue seriously and has assigned senior level staff to investigate, looking for evidence of price gouging, collusion or antitrust violations."

After not having heard further from the Attorney General's office, Woodard sent a second letter on Friday, March 13, about the "unfair" gas prices.

"I am sure you agree that our unfair gasoline prices are not the type of welcome message we want to extend to those who are bringing their tourism dollars to North Carolina," Woodard wrote.

On Tuesday, Noelle Talley, public information officer for the Department of Justice, confirmed that the investigation was ongoing and said she could not speculate on how long it might last.

Under state law, price gouging is illegal when a state of emergency has been declared -- for example, in a hurricane or other storm. 

"Our understanding is that a state of emergency or other event triggering the price gouging law was not in place in Dare County during the time period in question," Talley said in an e-mail. "Instead, our office is looking to see if there might be any actionable evidence of price fixing or collusion, as opposed to one gas station owner simply looking at what the competition is charging and then charging something similar (which the law does not prevent)."

Talley asked that anyone from Dare County who has evidence of potential price fixing or collusion to please share it with the Consumer Affairs Division by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within the state, or by using the consumer complaint form at www.ncdoj.gov.

Gas prices have been on a wild ride across the county, in the state, and on the Outer Banks since late last year.

According to GasBuddy.com, the average price of regular unleaded gasoline today was $2.429 per gallon nationally, $2.313 in North Carolina, and $2.467 in the OBX area.


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