The new Dutch head office of 3M in South Holland, Netherlands, as seen on November 5, 2014.
  • Mask manufacturer 3M is suing a company they accuse of violating their trademark and price gouging by selling fake N95 masks at a nearly 600% mark-up.
  • In a lawsuit filed in federal court in New York, 3M accused the company Performance Supply LLC of fraudulently presenting itself as an authorized re-seller of N95 masks to officials in New York City.
  • "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," a company spokeswoman told USA Today.
  • As medical providers and government officials alike struggle to get their hands on critical supplies, some fraudsters are seizing on the crisis to profit off of selling fake gear or by price-gouging.
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider's home page.

Mask manufacturer 3M is suing a company they accuse of violating their trademark and price gouging by selling fake N95 masks at a nearly 600% mark-up, the Wall Street Journal and USA Today reported.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York, 3M accused the company Performance Supply LLC of fraudulently presenting itself as an authorised distributor of the masks, and trying to sell knock-off N95 masks to officials in New York City desperate for more protective gear.

"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," 3M's senior vice president of corporate affairs Denise Rutherford said in a statement to USA Today.

Rutherford further told the Wall Street Journal that the price at which Performance Supply LLC is accused of trying to sell masks to officials "was simply not acceptable," adding, "they are representing themselves as us-and they are not us".

The lawsuit claims that Performance Supply LLC tried to sell officials in New York City a shipment of seven million N95 masks at a price of $6 (R107) each, nearly six times the normal cost of one mask, according to the Journal. As the outlet noted, it is unclear whether the company even had possession of that number of masks, either real or fake.

Crucial medical equipment like N95 respirator masks, gloves, and gowns are in ever short supply as hospitals find themselves slammed with patients suffering from the highly contagious disease Covid-19, which is caused by the novel coronavirus.

As medical providers and government officials alike struggle to get their hands on critical supplies, some fraudsters are capitalizing on the crisis by selling fake gear or hoarding crucial supplies to resell them at a massive markup, also known as price gouging, to people in desperate need.

The Department of Justice has also zeroed in on illegal price-gouging of crucial medical and other supplies required to fight the coronavirus. In a March White House briefing on the coronavirus, Attorney General William Barr announced the formation of a new task force specifically dedicated to cracking down on hoarding and price-gouging.

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