Attorney General Ellison secures agreement to end illegal price gouging of face masks

Saint Paul re-seller bought face masks from Minnesota businesses, resold them at unconscionably high prices around the country; will stop engaging in abusive sales during Governor’s peacetime emergency, will compensate customers

AUGUST 14, 2020 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced today that his office took action to address COVID-19-related pandemic profiteering by reaching a settlement with a St. Paul man who resold face masks online at greatly inflated and illegal prices.   

“We’re helping Minnesotans afford their lives during this crisis by cracking down on price-gouging on essential goods and services. We’re also helping people stay safe by making sure that protective gear is available everywhere at fair prices,” Attorney General Ellison said.  “People need to know that the Governor’s Executive Order banning price gouging applies to individuals as well as retailers. I’m pleased that this online re-seller cooperated with my office’s investigation. The resulting settlement ends the face mask sales and ensures compensation for injured consumers,” Attorney General Ellison added. 

The Saint Paul re-seller ran an online resale business through eBay where he made trips around Minnesota in order to purchase local supplies of masks and resold them online to consumers throughout the United States, including Minnesota, at significantly higher prices.  As an example, the seller sold 3M model 8210 N95 masks for $24.17 per mask, including shipping. That price is 1,744% higher than 3M’s indicated retail price of $1.31 for the same model. The re-seller’s mask prices increased over time, reflecting the increasing scarcity of these critical medical-grade masks during the pandemic. 

These practices will end under the terms of an Assurance of Discontinuance filed in Ramsey County District Court yesterday, as the re-seller agreed to stop selling N95 and KN95 masks during the emergency. The re-seller further agreed to pay $6,806.82 to consumer purchasers harmed by these inflated prices. 

Governor Tim Walz’s Executive Order 20-10 prohibits price-gouging on essential items like food and medical supplies 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).