Ohio attorney general sues eBay store accused of N95 mask price gouging


COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced Tuesday his office has filed a lawsuit against an eBay store accused of hoarding N95 masks and selling them at inflated prices.

According to Yost, Mario F. Salwan, of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and others, operated an online store on eBay under the name ‘Donkey476.’ Yost claims the group bought a large amount of products like N95 masks, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper.

Yost said that in March, the group purchased 1,200 N95 masks. The Attorney General’s office says the bulk purchases set the stage for them to reap exorbitant profits from the ongoing health crisis and added to the growing shortage of N95 masks.

“There’s another word for donkey that immediately comes to mind when thinking about these folks,” Yost said. “We will continue to take action against anyone else in this state price gouging during this pandemic.”

Beginning on March 28, Yost said Donkey476 sold packages of 10 N95 masks to 15 purchasers at prices ranging from $360 to $375, for an average of $36.34 per mask. Before the pandemic, masks retailed for $2.05 per mask.

According to the Attorney General:

According to the lawsuit, an emergency room nurse whose husband is an emergency room physician came across Donkey476’s listing for N95 masks on eBay. She reached out to Salwan to urge him to reconsider his exorbitant prices for equipment that health-care workers desperately need of because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In his response, Salwan indicated not only his keen awareness of the crisis but also his callous indifference to it: “You and your husband should work for free during this crisis, you are greedy!”

The Valentine Act, Ohio’s antitrust law, gives the attorney general’s office broad powers to protect the public and foster fair and honest interstate and intrastate competition by instituting actions against those who conspire to restrain trade and commerce or monopolize markets in Ohio. The hoarding of an item and the related increase in prices of that item constitute an unreasonable and unlawful restraint of trade, a violation of the Valentine Act.

The state also believes Donkey476 committed unfair or deceptive acts or practices in violation of Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act by offering goods for sale at prices substantially increased because of an increased demand for the products caused by this national emergency.

Yost is seeking a temporary restraining order – and preliminary and permanent injunctions as well as statutory civil forfeiture. The state is also asking the court make Donkey476 surrender all of its N95 masks to the state in exchange for reasonable compensation.

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