Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt issued a cease and desist letter to a Springfield area man who was confirmed, after investigation, to be selling N95 masks at inflated prices in the Springfield area. Attorney General Schmitt’s office opened an investigation in response to a report of possible price gouging by a report from TV station KOLR 10. According to the report, the man claimed to initially be charging $12.50 per mask, but had then lowered his price considerably.
“When we see instances of price gouging where we can take action, we will,” said Attorney General Schmitt. “Our office is working overtime to identify these instances of price gouging, collect consumer complaints, and educate Missourians on what to look out for during this time of uncertainty. Rest assured, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office has your back.”
During the Office’s Investigation, the man offered to sell masks to an undercover investigator from the Attorney General’s Office for $5.00. Since the price was still approximately double the usual retail price, and because the man reportedly still had hundreds in stock, the Attorney General’s Office issued a cease and desist letter to the seller.
The investigation revealed that the man had initially purchased a heavy stock of N95 masks pre-coronavirus outbreak, but saw an opportunity to sell them at inflated prices. There is evidence that the man has since returned at least 600 masks to the retailers he had purchased them from, and it appears at this time, the man has ceased selling masks at inflated prices. The office continues to monitor the situation and will immediately take action should we learn this individual continues to seek to profit off of a medical necessity at this time.
Attorney General Schmitt also warns anyone who is seeking to take advantage of the stress and uncertainty around the COVID-19 public health crisis to charge inflated prices that his office is carefully reviewing and monitoring complaints related to price gouging.
Schmitt has directed his staff to be especially vigilant in finding and stopping those charging exorbitant prices for personal protective equipment that is so desperately needed by first responders and medical providers treating patients suffering from COVID-19.
Anyone who sees substantially inflated prices during this pandemic, particularly medical products or other health-related necessities, is encouraged to report it to the Missouri Attorney General’s Office by calling the Consumer Protection hotline at 800-392-8222 or submitting a complaint online at https://ago.mo.gov/civil-division/consumer/price-gouging