Attorney General Ellison puts an end to more online pandemic profiteering
Saint Paul-based online retailer Red Star Trader bought essential goods in bulk, resold them at unconscionably excessive prices during the COVID-19 crisis; will stop engaging in abusive sales during the peacetime emergency
April 23, 2020 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced today that his office has put an end to more COVID-19-related pandemic profiteering. Under the terms of an Assurance of Discontinuance filed in Ramsey County District Court today, Red Star Trader agreed to stop reselling essential consumer goods. Red Star Trader will be liable for a $20,000 civil penalty if it violates the terms of the Assurance.
Red Star Trader is an online retailer of dry goods based in Saint Paul that, in part, buys items from wholesalers in bulk, breaks the products down into smaller portions, and resells the goods at a markup. When these products began to run out of stock at brick-and-mortar locations, Red Star Trader began reselling the products it had already purchased at prices that were significantly higher than the prices they had previously charged. For example, prior to the COVID-19 crisis, Red Star Trader sold 100-packs of sterile alcohol prep pads for $4.80, but began selling them after the start of the COVID-19 crisis for $7.90 each, plus shipping. Red Star Trader also sold food items, like rice, which it had purchased from local stores for around $30, at the price of $120, including shipping. Red Star Trader’s inventory of excessively-priced items included food, health care goods, pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, and personal hygiene, sanitation, and cleaning goods. Red Star Trader has agreed to stop this practice.
“I’m responsible for helping Minnesotans afford their lives during this crisis by enforcing the ban on pandemic profiteering and price-gouging on essential goods and services, and I’m cracking down on it, “Attorney General Ellison said. “Most retailers are doing the right thing by Minnesotans and I thank them for it. But if you’re taking advantage of this crisis to illegally line your own pockets and hurt Minnesotans, we’re coming after you,” Attorney General Ellison said.
“I’m calling on Minnesotans everywhere to report to my office any price-gouging on essential items they see. We’ve received over 1,500 complaints, and we’re looking into every one.”
Under Governor Tim Walz’s Executive Order 20-10, price-gouging on essential items like food and medical supplies is illegal for the duration of the COVID-19 peacetime emergency. Attorney General Ellison’s office has the authority to enforce the ban on pandemic profiteering on these items.
Attorney General Ellison encourages Minnesotans to report price-gouging on essential goods either through a dedicated online complaint form on his website or by calling his office at (651) 296-3353 (Metro) or (800) 657-3787 (Greater Minnesota).