Court Battles

3M claims distributor tried to sell masks to NYC officials for six times the price

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The company 3M filed a lawsuit against a business Friday accusing it of distributing its branded masks to New York City officials for six times the list price.

The manufacturing giant of both industry and consumer goods filed the suit against New Jersey-based company Performance Supply, according to The Wall Street Journal.

3M told The Hill that the company learned of Performance’s trades “when New York government officials reached out to 3M after they received an offer of a large number of respirators to verify it [was] from a company claiming to be affiliated with 3M,” a spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that Performance’s price quotes were exorbitant: 500 to 600 percent above list prices.

“The price they were being charged was simply not acceptable,” said Denise Rutherford, 3M’s vice president for corporate affairs. “They are representing themselves as us — and they are not us.”

Performance Supply reportedly sent an email to a New York procurement official late last month offering the sale of 7 million N95 respirator masks for $6 each, according to the case.

The high-demand masks are valued because they offer the highest protection from foreign debris and small particles, blocking 95 percent of droplets, including the coronavirus.

N95 masks typically sell for less than a $1.50 each, but recent demands have driven prices to be between $3.59 to $6.89 each, according to GovSpend.

Health care suppliers throughout the U.S. reported receiving dozens of emails each day from unknown resellers offering face masks of undisclosed quality for higher-than-average prices.

Some hospitals have received N95 masks that fail quality-control tests but resorted to using them due to short supplies, according to the report.

3M usually sells masks through industrial distributors and retail chains, but changed routes after President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA) last week.

The implementation of the DPA rerouted about 167 million masks to the U.S. from 3M’s facility in China, and distributed them with assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA.)

The company said the vast majority of its face covers are now distributed directly to hospitals through about six major health care distributors, as well as FEMA.

3M defended the lawsuit filed Friday, saying the intent is to protect public health while also citing that price gouging from third party resellers was hurting the company’s reputation.

Tags 3M Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump Equipment Mask N95 Protective gear Respirator

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