Two Eastern Pennsylvania medical equipment suppliers have been charged with price gouging for selling N95 face masks for more than $25 each.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro charged Keystone Medical Equipment of Jim Thorpe and American Surgical Supply of Pottsville after receiving tips alleging that the stores were selling the masks at unlawful prices. Both are local businesses that sell medical supplies such as orthopedic braces, PPE, and CPAP machines to consumers.
Shapiro’s office found that Keystone sold 122 face masks for upwards of $28 per mask, and that American Surgical sold 485 face masks for as much as $26 per mask in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic state of emergency.
Under the state’s Price Gouging Act, a price increase of more than 20 percent during a declared state of emergency is considered price gouging.
“Consumers have the right to pay a fair price for goods, especially those as essential masks during this pandemic. Ripping people off to make a buck during this pandemic isn’t only unacceptable – it’s illegal,” Shapiro said. “Wherever price gouging happens, we will act to stop it and get people their money back.”
Consumers who purchased N95 face masks from Keystone Medical Equipment or American Surgical Supply may be eligible for restitution if they paid more than they should have.
Shapiro noted that consumers who suspect illegal price increases should email the Office of Attorney General at [email protected] and fill out a complaint form.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro reached a settlement with a New Jersey-based pharmacy supplier that allegedly price gouged on hand sanitizer sold to Pennsylvania pharmacies.
Shapiro announced this week that Keansburg, NJ-based Landmark Supply Inc. entered an assurance of voluntary compliance with the Attorney General’s office after it found evidence that the company sold 8 oz. bottles of Purell Hand Sanitizer to pharmacies at a price increase of more than 20 percent.
“We won’t tolerate illegal price gouging, especially from suppliers and wholesalers who try to rip off Pennsylvania small businesses and their consumers. Fair prices are critical when so many have lost wages and nearly one in three residents are out of work,” Shapiro said. “You have a right in Pennsylvania to purchase life-saving goods at reasonable prices in times like these.”
Shapiro said in a press release that his office learned that 14 Pennsylvania pharmacies purchased the eight ounce bottles for $7.98 or $9.50 per bottle. Markups of over 20 percent during a declared state of emergency are considered price gouging.
As part of the assurance of voluntary compliance, Landmark agreed to pay $2,150 in civil penalties and $160.51 in restitution for consumers.
One of the pharmacies that purchased the product from Landmark was Medical Arts Pharmacy in Carlisle, according to the office.
When asked about the hand sanitizer, Haresh Malaviya, the pharmacy’s owner and pharmacist, said that he had only purchased 13 of the eight ounce bottles from Landmark and had kept the product for his staff.
“We got some masks from them and some hand sanitizer for personal use,” Malaviya said. “We wanted to keep ourselves and our employees clean. If we couldn’t open the pharmacy we would have taken a big loss.”
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said today that his office has now received more than 1,000 tips reporting price gouging.
As of today, the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General has received 1,171 reports, of which the Office has followed up with 45 verified complaints and dispensed 34 cease and desist letters and subpoenas.
For example his office was able to stop a suburban Philadelphia store from selling a $2 bottle of hand sanitizer for $19.
“I’m grateful to everyone in the Commonwealth for reporting their concerns to our Office,” said Shapiro. “During these uncertain times, taking advantage of consumers in need of cleaning supplies and paper products is not only outrageous, it’s illegal.”
Shapiro said his office is following up on every tip regarding price gouging reported. To make a tip, email the office at [email protected].
Pennsylvania’s top law enforcement officials say there are penalties in store for businesses that take advantage of the spread of the coronavirus in the commonwealth to drive profits.
State Attorney General Josh Shapiro is encouraging consumers to contact his office if a business hikes prices amidst the spread of COVID-19. Companies in the commonwealth could face fines if found to be guilty of “price gouging,” driving up costs for consumer goods in high demand due to the spread of the virus.
As of Monday afternoon, the number of coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania is 10, according to the state Health Department.
Gov. Tom Wolf’s disaster declaration last Friday triggered protections under state law for businesses and consumers. Companies are prohibited from changing prices for consumer goods or services that exceed 20% of the average price to which those goods or services were sold for in the seven days preceding the date of declaration — March 6, 2019.
“As Pennsylvania continues to manage the spread of the coronavirus, merchants should be put on notice: you cannot use a public health emergency as a business opportunity,” Shapiro said. “For consumers, just know: if you see the price of basic goods skyrocket ― reach out to my office. Let us know. Our agency is here to protect you from being taken advantage of.”
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.