RALEIGH — Attorney General Josh Stein filed Thursday a lawsuit against an out-of-state tree service company for alleged price gouging in southeastern North Carolina, his office announced.
The lawsuit was filed against Canary Tree Service, a Jacksonville, Florida-based tree removal company, and its owner Justin Hartmann, alleging that they price gouged Wilmington-area homeowners after Hurricane Florence. This is the seventh price gouging lawsuit Stein has filed after Hurricanes Florence and Michael hit the state in the later months of 2018.
The complaint alleges price gouging incidents with four Wilmington-area homeowners that were excessive amounts for tree removal work, and a fifth homeowner who was offered an inflated quote for a job, according to the release.
Two homeowners were charged $9,500 for 14 hours of work, about $679 per hour. A third homeowner was charged $4,500 for six hours of work, around $750 per hour. A fourth homeowner was charged $14,000 for 30 hours of work, or $467 per hour, though another company estimated that work to cost about $2,400. A fifth homeowner was quoted $750 for removing a small tree, work that was ultimately completed in less than an hour by a neighbor.
None of the consumers were provided written notice of their three-day right to cancel, a requirement under North Carolina law.
Stein is seeking temporary, preliminary, and permanent injunctive relief against the defendants, along with restitution for victims, civil penalties, attorney fees and other relief.
“My office will not allow price gouging to go unchecked,” said Attorney General Josh Stein in a statement. “These out-of-state operators took advantage of homeowners rebuilding after Hurricane Florence. That’s against the law, and my office will hold them accountable.”
He has already reached settlements with seven defendants involved in in two lawsuits, totaling $234,006 in restitution and $154,971 in money companies are barred from collecting from homeowners.