3M says a New Jersey company is price gouging New York officials over N95 masks

Boxes of N95 masks are stacked.
Boxes of 3M's N95 masks are stacked. The Maplewood-based company has sued a New Jersey firm that allegedly engaged in extreme price gouging for N95 masks.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News file

3M has sued a New Jersey firm that allegedly engaged in extreme price gouging for N95 respirator masks that can prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in New York, 3M alleges Performance Supply LLC falsely claimed a business affiliation with 3M and offered to sell New York City officials N95 masks at six to seven times 3M’s list prices, asking for $45 million for the devices.

“3M does not — and will not — tolerate price gouging, fraud, deception or other activities that unlawfully exploit the demand for critical 3M products during a pandemic,” Denise Rutherford, 3M’s senior vice president for corporate affairs, said in a press release. “3M will not stop here. We continue to work with federal and state law enforcement authorities, and around the world, to investigate and track down those who are illegally taking advantage of this situation for their own gain.”

3M, based in Maplewood, wants a court order halting what it says is Performance Supply’s illegal price gouging and deceptive trade practices. 3M says it has not increased respirator prices as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The company's published list prices for the masks range from 68 cents to $3.40 each, depending on the model.

N95 respirator masks are in extremely short supply. Medical personnel have been reusing them when supplies run low. The masks are intended to be used one time, but some health systems encourage health workers to wear each mask more than that.

The company expects to produce about 50 million respirators a month in the United States by June. It also expects to increase imports from its overseas plants. 3M has doubled worldwide production of respirators to nearly 100 million per month.

Performance Supply could not be immediately reached for comment.

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