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3M sues NJ company, alleging price gouging in sale of N95 masks

por John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | April 14, 2020
3M has accused Performance Supply of offering to sell N95 respirators to providers at prices 500-600% higher than those listed on 3M's price list.
3M has accused a New Jersey-based company of illegally selling N95 respirators at gouged prices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Minnesota-based plaintiff filed a lawsuit in New York City federal court Friday against Performance Supply LLC, alleging that it offered to sell $45 million worth of N95 respirators to New York City officials at prices 500-600% over those listed by 3M. It also says the company falsely claimed to have a business affiliation with 3M.

“3M does not — and will not — tolerate price gouging, fraud, deception, or other activities that unlawfully exploit the demand for critical 3M products during a pandemic,” said Denise Rutherford, senior vice president of corporate affairs for 3M in a statement. “3M will not stop here. We continue to work with federal and state law enforcement authorities, and around the world, to investigate and track down those who are illegally taking advantage of this situation for their own gain.”

3M — which has not changed the price of its respirators since the outbreak — is seeking an injunctive relief that will require Performance Supply to stop its illegal activities. It also is requesting damages, promising that any such awards will be donated to COVID-19 related nonprofit organizations.

The Wall Street Journal reports that it is not clear if Performance Supply had access to masks or if the masks were actually made by 3M.

3M is one of the biggest manufacturers of N95 respirators, which have come under high demand due to their ability to filter out tiny coronavirus particles. It has since ramped up production to more than 100 million masks per month, with 35 million coming from U.S. plants. It plans to increase U.S. output to 50 million per month by June, reports Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal.

Helping it to achieve these objectives is Ford, which the company recently teamed up with to expand production. It also has established an agreement with the U.S. government to import 166.5 million respirators over the next three months to support healthcare workers in the United States.

In addition to the suit against Performance Supply, the company has teamed up with national and international law enforcement, state attorney generals, and online retail and tech companies like Amazon and Google to identify illegal activities and turn over criminals engaging in them to prevent fraud before it begins and stop it when it has started.

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