New Hanover complaint leads to 1st Florence price-gouging suit

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A tree removal service was the cause of Friday’s action

WILMINGTON — A New Hanover County complaint has resulted in the first Hurricane Florence-related price-gouging action taken by the N.C. Attorney General’s office.

According to the complaint, A1 Tree and Storm Damage Relief — which also does business as Big Al and Sons Tree Service — visited a New Hanover County home, quoted the resident a price of $4,000 for three trees, later quoted $7,000 for the same work and then submitted a bill of $12,000.

“The problem is that there’s too much work and not enough companies doing it,” said Josh Stein, North Carolina’s attorney general.

Filed Friday in Wake County Superior Court, the lawsuit alleges the company falsely claimed to be a certified arborist, falsely claimed to be insured and bonded.

“It’s awful that people would come to New Hanover County to try to exploit people’s tragedy,” Stein said, “and it’s also terrible because the majority of businesses aren’t doing that. The majority of businesses are working hard to be a good neighbor and offer goods and services at a fair price.”

To protect themselves, Stein added, consumers should be wary of businesses that show up at their homes offering to do work, get multiple quotes, make sure those quotes are in writing and make sure they pay with check or credit card.

In the A1 case, for instance, the woman making the complaint paid with two $6,000 checks — one of which she was able to cancel.

“If you pay in cash,” Stein said, “it’s very hard to get your money back even if you are in the right.”

North Carolina’s price gouging law is in effect for 45 days or until Gov. Roy Cooper lifts the state of emergency.

To this point, 720 Florence-related price gouging claims have been filed with the N.C. Attorney General’s Office. Stein said there are several ongoing investigations pertaining to hotels.

Reporter Adam Wagner can be reached at