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Local man reprimanded for alleged price gouging

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A Springfield-area man has been reprimanded with a cease-and-desist letter from Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt's office over alleged price gouging.

The man, who was not named in a news release, allegedly sold N95 face masks at inflated prices in the area. The attorney general's office opened an investigation this month following a March 5 report by KOLR 10 on possible price gouging.

During the investigation, the man offered to sell masks to an undercover investigator from Schmitt's office for $5, which is roughly double the retail price, according to the release.

The man reportedly had hundreds of masks still in stock after buying a large supply ahead of the coronavirus pandemic. Schmitt's office reports evidence that the man has returned at least 600 masks to retailers and appears to have stopped selling them at inflated prices.

A shortage in personal protective equipment, including face masks, has been reported by local hospitals.

In an interview with Springfield Business Journal, CoxHealth President and CEO Steve Edwards said price gouging is affecting the health care system. The cost of N95 masks has skyrocketed in some cases.

“A mask that costs 62 cents apiece, people are proposing $6, so a hundredfold markup. We'll be working with the attorney general on any of those cases,” Edwards told SBJ Features Editor Christine Temple. “What we've found out is that the markup across the nation for these masks tends to be a fivefold increase.”

Schmitt's office is directing Missourians to report alleged price gouging at a form posted to AGO.Mo.gov.

“When we see instances of price gouging where we can take action, we will,” Schmitt said in the release. “Our office is working overtime to identify these instances of price gouging, collect consumer complaints and educate Missourians on what to look out for during this time of uncertainty."

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