WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Attorney General Josh Stein spoke in Wilmington on Wednesday afternoon about two new price gouging lawsuits involving four out-of-state companies. He also offered advice for how people can avoid getting victimized.
“When you have a storm that comes into a community like Hurricane Florence hit New Hanover County, people with bad intentions will come from across the country to try and take people’s money," said Stein. "And it’s utterly heartless, it’s wrong, and it’s illegal. That’s why I’m taking these actions today.”
Stein was joined by District Attorney Ben David at the Harrelson Center Courtyard.
In the first suit, two Kentucky-based tree cutting services — Action Tree Pros and Premier Landscaping and Lawn Care — are accused of charging excessive prices for tree removal services, including $29,500 to remove one tree. In total, they charged a homeowner about $80,000 to remove five trees.
The other suit alleges that Scotts Tree Service, an Ohio-based company, charged homeowners an excessive amount for tree removal, added inflated prices to a previously signed statement of work and sent a falsified estimate to a debt collection agency.
Goldberg & Donovan Inc., the debt collection company, is named as a co-defendant in the suit. It does not have a permit to collect debts in North Carolina and is alleged to have harassed the homeowner.
In both cases, Stein is seeking temporary, preliminary and permanent injunctive relief against the defendants along with restitution for the victims, civil penalties, attorney fees and other relief. In other words, the attorney general is asking the companies to stop breaking the law, wants to punish them for their actions, and pay back the victims.
If you believe you have been victimized by any of these companies, Stein asks you to contact his office.
“We want to get a list of all customers that they have done business with because if they’ve done this to other people who haven’t complained to us, we want to get their money back," said Stein. "We also want the court to issue civil penalties for every violation that these companies have done.”
To avoid becoming a victim of price gouging, Stein encourages you to get price quotes from multiple companies, work with local services if possible, get everything in writing, and don’t pay in full until the job is done.
Stein encourages consumers to contact his office if you believe you’re a victim of price gouging. You can file an online complaint at NCDOJ.gov/gouging or call 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.