The maker of N95 masks is accusing an Amazon vendor of charging 20 instances the retail value amid the coronavirus disaster

An N95 masks similar to those made by 3M

Romeo Ranoco/Reuters

3M is accusing an Amazon seller of hiking the cost of its masks by as much as 20 times while  protective medical equipment was in short-supply amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The company has filed 12 such lawsuits as part of ongoing efforts to combat fraud, it said. 

Mao Yu, the defendant of Monday’s lawsuit, said he had not yet received a copy of the lawsuit. 

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3M has filed a lawsuit against an Amazon seller accusing him of charging as much as 20 times the retail price in mask listings claiming to be the company’s N95 respirators.

The company said in its complaint filed Monday in California federal court that Mao Yu and his associated companies charged as much $23.21 — far higher than 3M’s usual retail price of $0.63 to $3.40 — for the masks. It’s one of 12 such suits against alleged price gougers amid the pandemic.

The Wall Street Journal first reported on the lawsuit.

Reached by phone for comment, Yu said he had not yet been served a copy of the lawsuit.

“Certain bad actors have sought to exploit the crisis and prey on innocent parties through a variety of scams involving 3M N95 respirators and other health-related products in high demand,” 3M said in its complaint. “These scams include the sale of counterfeit, damaged, deficient, or otherwise altered products, unlawful price gouging, fake offers, bait-and-switch tactics, and other unfair and deceptive practices—all of which undercut the integrity of the marketplace and constitute an ongoing threat to public health and safety.”

3M said in a press release that it would donate any damages recovered as part of the suit to COVID-19 recovery efforts.

“3M customers deserve authentic products at fair prices, and this scam is aimed at exploiting the demand for our critical products during the pandemic using 3M’s name connected with price gouging and counterfeiting,” Denise Rutherford, 3M’s senior vice president of corporate affairs, said. “Our collaboration with Amazon is one of the important ways we are working to prevent and combat fraud, and we will report this unlawful activity to law enforcement, as well.”

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Amazon has removed Yu and his associated companies from its selling platform, 3M said.

Price gouging quickly became a concern for online platforms as the novel coronavirus spread throughout the world, with retailers including Ebay saying they were “actively removing” such listings.

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