America’s leading manufacturer of key protective equipment in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic has filed 18 lawsuits in connection with claims of fraud, counterfeiting, and price gouging related to gear including its iconic N95 mask.
The lawsuits are part of a series of ongoing actions to fight fraud related to the outbreak, 3M stated in a press release. The company added that in order to stop “pandemic profiteers,” it has teamed up with law enforcement and online retailers to remove thousands of deceptive websites and social media posts.
“3M launched this ambitious effort to prevent and stop fraud at the same time as we have been rapidly increasing production of N95 respirators and other needed supplies to combat COVID-19,” said Denise Rutherford, 3M Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs.
3M said its legal team has investigated over 4,000 reports globally of suspected fraud, counterfeiting, and price gouging. The company said its actions have led to more than 7,000 e-commerce listings with fraudulent or counterfeit product offerings being taken down. Also, it said over 10,000 false or deceptive social media posts related to its products have been removed.
“The schemes we shut down were not only unlawful, they also endangered lives and wasted precious time and resources by diverting buyers from legitimate sources of much-needed respirators,” Rutherford said.
3M said courts have so far issued six temporary restraining orders and four preliminary injunctions to stop “unlawful actions” related to its critical protective equipment products, including N95 respirators.
Some of the cases have resulted in defendants agreeing to stop improper behavior immediately. In other instances, 3M said its actions have led to criminal charges being brought against “several bad actors.”
The company said the lawsuits have been filed in 10 states and Canada.
“We will continue to partner with law enforcement and online retailers to take action against profiteers,” Rutherford said.
In a bid to fight price gouging, the company has published N95 respirator pricing information (pdf).
“3M has not, and will not, increase the prices of its respirators as a result of the pandemic. Any damages we recover in lawsuits are donated to COVID-19 relief efforts at nonprofit organizations, including Direct Relief,” the company said.