Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is calling on Minnesotans to report to his office any and all price-gouging they see on essential items.
"We’ve had almost 500 complaints in the first week, and we’re looking into every one," Ellison says, noting that companies, both local and online, have attempted to take advantage of customers in need of supplies that have become limited in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
One such local business Ellison named is Dragon Door Publications. Per Ellison, the Little Canada-based exercise and weight-lifting equipment retailer began selling N95 respirator masks for $5 each (plus shipping).
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Dragon Door Publications had not sold N95 masks, which are in short supply at healthcare facilities around the state and nation as doctors and nurses are forced to reuse masks due to the shortage.
If a customer purchased a $499 fitness program, Dragon Door Publications was offering throw in N95 masks free of charge.
Under Gov. Tim Walz's peacetime emergency orders, the Attorney General has the authority to enforce a ban on pandemic profiteering of essential items. In the case of N95 masks, the order states that they not be used “other than for use in delivering critical health care services or essential services requiring such equipment."
Companies that don't need the masks for daily operations are urged to donate them to healthcare facilities. Dragon Door has since agreed to refund all customers who bought masks and to donate all that are remaining.
Ellison has also informed major online retailers like Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Walmart, and Craigslist that pandemic profiteering will not be tolerated. Among the price-gouging seen since the outbreak began:
– 2-liter bottle of hand sanitizer for $250 on Craigslist
– 8 oz. hand sanitizer for $40 on Facebook Marketplace
– 50% price increases on all hand sanitizer and face masks on Amazon
“Now more than ever, my job is to help Minnesotans afford their lives — but pandemic profiteering, including online, is making that harder. The major online retailers have a responsibility to put an end to it,” Ellison said in a statement.
“The vast majority of retailers who are selling essential items are doing the right thing by Minnesotans right now — and their workers are our heroes. But if you’re profiteering off the pandemic, my office and I are coming after you.”
Anyone can report price-gouging online through this form, or by calling 651-296-3353 or 800-657-3787.