California resident Mao Yu allegedly sold N95 tasks for nearly 20 times their retail cost.
3M Co has filed a lawsuit against an Amazon retailer accused of selling face masks for more than 18 times their ordinary retail value.
The lawsuit, writes the Wall Street Journal, was filed Monday in a California federal court. It accuses Mao Yu and several of his businesses of selling items described as 3M-made N95 masks on Amazon.
3M is the United States’ largest producer of respiratory masks, and has been tasked with ensuring adequate supply by the Trump administration. With cases of novel coronavirus continuing to emerge across the country, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has tightly restricted 3M’s business practices—the cost of 3M’s N95 masks have remained constant, at just $1.25 per unit.
Yu, however, charged $23.31 per mask. While Yu’s masks were not genuine 3M products, he claimed they were, touting his masks’ ability to block up to 95% of very small products—including respiratory droplets which may transfer novel coronavirus.
In total, Yu made over $350,000 from the sale of overpriced and purportedly counterfeit N95 masks.
Many of Yu’s customers left poor reviews for the N95 masks, claiming they were deceptively labeled and often defective.
“I think these are fake N95 Mask [sic], and seller gouged me 20 times the retail price,” one review states. “Ten-pack of N995 mask for $150 is just crooked during this pandemic.”
To ensure its competitiveness, as well as the integrity of its products, 3M has taken extensive legal action against companies accused of unfairly profiting from its N95 masks, or products fraudulently described as its.
And fraud has been a big problem for 3M and Amazon since coronavirus appeared in the United States.
Amazon, adds The Verge, has been ridden with counterfeit hygiene retailers. In February, Amazon instituted price-gouging controls; and in March, the online marketplace largely restricted the sale of hand sanitizer and face masks altogether.
However, Yu—the owner of KMJ Trading Inc—allegedly began price-gouging before Amazon’s restrictions took effect. He offered about 45 different products, which were sold by three different e-businesses.
3M’s lawsuit is part an ongoing effort to curb counterfeiting and price-gouging, carried out in collaboration with Amazon.
“We’re proud to be working with 3M to hold these bad actors accountable,” said Dharmesh Mehta, Amazon’s vice president for customer trust and partner support. “When we find a bad actor violating our policies, we work quickly to remove the products and take action on the bad actor, as we’ve done here, and we welcome collaboration from brands like 3M.”
The Wall Street Journal notes that 3M has, to date, filed more than a dozen lawsuits against mask manufacturers for price-gouging and false advertisement.
“It saddens me that there are so many people taken advantage of in the pandemic,” said 3M trademark attorney Colette Durst.
3M’s lawsuit, says The Verge, is asking for statutory damages as high as $2 million, along with a permanent injunction restricting Yu from selling products associated with 3M.
“By selling and delivering to customers counterfeit, damaged, deficient, or otherwise altered respirators and engaging in price-gouging, Defendants caused irreparable damage to 3M’s reputation,” the lawsuit states. “There is no adequate remedy at law for these injuries.”