Jul 17, 2020 - Health

3M files lawsuits over alleged price gouging of N95 masks

Illustration of a surgical mask with eye holes cut out.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

3M said Thursday it has investigated over 4,000 reports and filed 18 lawsuits in response to suspected price gouging, counterfeiting, and fraud regarding the sale of N95 respirator masks.

Why it matters: The U.S. is potentially staring down another severe shortage of face masks, gowns and other protective equipment — which are especially needed by health care workers — amid the coronavirus surge.

  • The company said that any damages recovered through its lawsuits will be donated to nonprofit coronavirus relief efforts, including Direct Relief.

The big picture: 3M faced criticism from President Trump and other prominent observers, like Mark Cuban, over its respirator production early in the pandemic.

  • Cuban criticized the company in April for "making more globally than domestically," echoing a similar line from Trump now as the U.S. became the epicenter of the pandemic. "You can't ghost the American people," he told Axios.
  • 3M says it has delivered nearly 100 million N95 masks to hospitals around the U.S. as of July, while manufacturing 50 million respirators a month.

Go deeper: PPE failure, again

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