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A New Jersey-based company claiming to be affiliated with 3M tried to sell $45 million worth of N95 respirators to New York City — a markup of as much as 600% the list price, according to a lawsuit filed Friday by 3M.
Performance Supply LLC was engaged in price gouging and deceptive practices, the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
“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 of corporate affairs, said in a statement.
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Government agencies and hospitals have been trying to make up for a shortage of N95 respirators — masks that health care workers fit over their faces to filter out air particles and protect themselves against the coronavirus.
They have said prices have jumped.
The shortage of masks has prompted health care workers to say they have had to put their own health at risk to care for patients.
Performance Supply LLC, incorporated in Manalapan, New Jersey in 2012, couldn’t be reached for comment.
The lawsuit has been a headache for one local company. Performance Screen Supply, also in Manalapan, has been bombarded with angry phone calls even though it is a different company, its owner, Bob Drake, said.
That business, which has been operating for 33 years, sells screen printing supplies to T-shirt makers, Drake said.
St. Paul, Minnesota-based 3M, one of the nation’s biggest manufacturers of respirators, said it has not changed the prices it charges for the device since the onset of the coronavirus.
And it is working with online retailers and technology companies, including Google, Amazon and Facebook, to identify and remove counterfeit products and price gougers from their sites, it said.
The lawsuit asks that Performance Supply stop its activities and pay damages. 3M said damages would be donated to COVID-19 related nonprofit organizations.
Michael Diamond is a business reporter who has been writing about the New Jersey economy for 20 years. He can be reached at [email protected] and @mdiamondapp on Twitter.
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