3M sues Amazon seller who offered masks at 18 times markup

3M sues Amazon seller who offered masks at 18 times markup
© ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

Manufacturing company 3M is suing an Amazon seller for selling the company's N95 masks at nearly 20 times the market value amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In its complaint that was filed in California federal court on Monday, 3M — the largest producer of N95 masks in the country — said that California resident Mao Yu and his associated companies sold their masks for an average of $23.21 each on Amazon. The market price for a single N95 mask, according to the company, is roughly $1.25.

Price gouging of personal protective equipment (PPE) has been a significant issue during the pandemic. N95 masks are perhaps the most critical of PPE, as the respirators sewn into the mask block 95 percent of the particles that can carry COVID-19, including water droplets. 

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3M alleged in the lawsuit that Yu had sold 3M-labeled masks across multiple accounts on the e-commerce hub. The company wants Yu to stop sales of the masks and turn over all profits to 3M, as the company had previously announced that all sales from N95 masks would go to charity. Amazon and 3M say that Yu charged customers more than $350,000 in total for his masks.

Dharmesh Mehta, vice president of customer trust at Amazon, told The Wall Street Journal that Amazon had cracked down on price gouging during the pandemic, removing more than 500,000 listings for pandemic-essential products while suspending more than 6,000 sellers for reported price gouging.

The Hill has reached out to Amazon for further comment.

The lawsuit is just one of over a dozen that 3M has filed in recent months regarding price gouging, trademark infringement and false advertising, according to the Journal.