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Ohio Attorney General Brings Antitrust + CSPA Suit Against Alleged Price Gouger

Smart Summary

  • Ohio AG David Yost has filed suit against a number of individuals for alleged price gouging in the online sale of N95 respirator masks.
  • Though there’s no anti-price gouging statute in Ohio, the Complaint alleges violations of the state’s antitrust law and Consumer Sales Practices Act.
  • This indicates a creative approach to pursuing lawsuits against those that the AG believes are exploiting the health crisis.

On April 15, Ohio Attorney General David Yost filed a lawsuit in Franklin County Common Pleas Court against Mario Salwan, an individual e-Bay retailer of N95 respirator masks (“N95 Masks”), and others for price gouging. The suit alleges that the Defendants, “seeing an opportunity to profit from this fear-driven increase in demand” for essential personal protective equipment, “began to rapidly acquire a significant volume of one such type of products – N95 Masks – for sale through their Donkey476 e-Bay store.”

According to the suit, Salwan then sold “packages of ten N95 Masks each at prices ranging from $360.00 to $375.00, for an average price of $363.43 per package, or $36.34 per mask.” The Complaint alleges that “[p]rior to the declaration of a State of Emergency in Ohio related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the retail market price of N95 Masks was typically $1.75 to $2.35 per mask, for an average retail price of $2.05 per mask.”

While Ohio currently does not have a specific anti-price gouging statute, the lawsuit against Salwan alleges violations of Ohio’s antitrust law (the Valentine Act, Ohio Rev. Code §1331.01, et seq.), and Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act (Ohio Rev. Code §1345.01, et seq.) (“CSPA”). The suit also includes a count alleging violations of Ohio common law prohibiting price gouging.

The use of Ohio’s antitrust law and the CSPA to attack price gouging is somewhat novel and demonstrates that Attorney General Yost will be creative when pursuing those he thinks are exploiting the health emergency to take advantage of Ohio consumers.

The price gouging lawsuit itself can be found here.

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