Bryan Cohen Feb. 18, 2014, 3:00pm

RALEIGH, N.C. (Legal Newsline) -- North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper reminded towing companies on Friday that state laws against price gouging and unfair business practices are still in effect after a major winter storm.

Price gouging, which occurs when companies charge excessive prices during times of crisis, is against state law when a state of emergency is declared or proclaimed by the governor. The state's price gouging law was in effect as of Friday due to a state of emergency declared Tuesday.

Cooper's office received more than a dozen complaints last week about high towing fees.

The attorney general reminded towing companies and other businesses that his Consumer Protection Division can enforce price gouging laws to win refunds for consumers and charge civil penalties.

"Bad weather isn't an excuse to jack up prices and rip off consumers," Cooper said. "If you think you're being charged too much for towing, let us know about it."

Some drivers were forced to abandon their cars because of last week's winter storm. Some of the consumers reported charges of $400 or more. Normal towing rates are typically between $100 and $150.

Cooper said his office will evaluate local towing companies to determine if they are breaking any laws. Consumers, he said, can file a complaint with the attorney general's Consumer Protection Division.

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