Attorney General TJ Donovan today announced a settlement of the Consumer Protection Act enforcement action brought to stop a price-gouging scheme involving surgical masks by Big Brother Security Programs, Inc and its owner Shelley Palmer. The settlement required the defendants to provide nearly 80,000 units of personal protective equipment (PPE) to Central Vermont Medical Center (CVMC) and 10,000 units of PPE to the State of Vermont for distribution throughout the state.
The distribution of PPE will serve as restitution for charging exorbitant prices for critically needed surgical masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Price-gouging will not be tolerated in Vermont, especially during this historic pandemic,” said Attorney General Donovan. “Protecting Vermonters, especially hospitals and medical professionals, from unfair practices involving medical equipment will remain a top priority for my office. I will continue to do all that I can to protect the Vermonters on the front lines of this pandemic so that they can continue to protect us.”
In April, the Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit(link is external) and motion for preliminary injunction(link is external) against the defendants. The filings alleged that Big Brother Security Programs, whose primary business is to own and operate public and private transportation, imported surgical masks that cost 10 cents each and re-sold them to CVMC for $2.50 each. On April 27, 2020, the Court granted the Attorney General’s request for an injunction(link is external), stopping the defendants from selling surgical masks or any other personal protective medical equipment at inflated prices.
In addition to providing restitution in the form of PPE to CVMC, the settlement required the defendants to provide truthful information to consumers; no longer sell PPE at exorbitant prices; and deliver 10,000 KN95 masks to the State of Vermont for distribution throughout Vermont.
Finally, the settlement imposed a suspended penalty of $15,000 for inability to pay.
Reports of potential price gouging can be made by contacting the Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program at 800-649-2424 or [email protected](link sends e-mail).
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