Iowa man accused of price gouging on sales of toilet paper, cleaning supplies

Iowa man accused of price gouging on sales of toilet paper, cleaning supplies
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Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller (D) has filed the state's first price-gouging lawsuit amid the coronavirus pandemic, alleging that an Orange City man repeatedly sold supplies that have been in high demand at exorbitant prices.

Miller's office said it received its first complaint about the seller in question on March 22, stating that Michael Evan Noteboom was "selling a 12-ounce can of Lysol on eBay for $65.99, Angel Soft toilet paper (12 count) for $86, and Bounty paper towels (6 count) for $49.99."

Noteboom was sent a written warning on March 24, officials said.

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“Our office has warned the defendant repeatedly to stop his activity,” Miller said in a statement. “Through news reports, public-service announcements and other notices, our office has informed sellers and the public that we will not hesitate to protect consumers from price gouging.”

The attorney general's office said investigators found that Noteboom had sold 253 items on eBay between March 2 and March 27 that have been in high demand to people in several states, including Illinois, California and Texas. The highest priced item was a 12-count of Bounty paper towels that sold for $119.99, the office added.

“From the pandemic, heroes have arisen who put the social good and their fellow man first, such as doctors, nurses and other health care workers,” the lawsuit states. “Unfortunately, others have chosen to take advantage of the crisis in order to personally and unfairly profit from the panic and product shortages initiated by COVID-19. Defendant is in the latter group.”

According to Iowa's price-gouging law, which comes into effect when a disaster declaration has been issued, excessive pricing is prohibited on goods and items “needed by victims of disasters.” The law defines an excessive price as “not justified by the seller’s actual costs of acquiring, producing, selling, transporting, and delivering the actual product sold, plus a reasonable profit.”

A court hearing in the case is scheduled for May 6.