The Department of Justice (DOJ) warned on Monday it will hold businesses accountable if they violate antitrust laws during the coronavirus outbreak.
DOJ cautioned against companies or individuals fixing prices or rigging bids for any equipment that customers might use against the virus, such as gloves, face masks and respirators.
“The Department of Justice stands ready to make sure that bad actors do not take advantage of emergency response efforts, healthcare providers, or the American people during this crucial time,” Attorney General William BarrBill BarrJan. 6 panel recommends contempt charges for Trump DOJ official Appeals court questions Biden DOJ stance on Trump obstruction memo Michael Cohen officially released from prison sentence MORE said in a press release. “I am committed to ensuring that the department’s resources are available to combat any wrongdoing and protect the public.”
DOJ also warned against competitors that agree to allocate consumers of public health products among themselves. It has set up a Procurement Collusion Strike Force for collusive practices during the sale of products to federal, state and local agencies.
The Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission wrote to seven companies on Monday over alleged sales of fraudulent products. They typically monitor online sources for fraud health products and are on particularly high alert during the outbreak.
The Consumer Brands Association wrote to Barr on Monday, asking DOJ to protect Americans from price gouging of consumer packaged goods, such as hand sanitizers, tissues and face masks during the outbreak.
The trade group praised the DOJ response.
"We appreciate the Department of Justice’s swift response to Consumer Brands’ request to combat price gouging and ensure American consumers have access to critical products at affordable prices," the group said in a statement.
"The Consumer Brands Association represents companies that work every day to keep products available and affordable for Americans. Price gouging undermines that mission and threatens public health as we navigate coronavirus," the statement added. "We look forward to continuing to work with the administration on solutions to protect consumers."
There have been 22 deaths in the U.S. from the virus and at least 565 confirmed cases domestically.
--Updated at 1:14 p.m.