MONTPELIER, Vt. – The Vermont’s Attorney General’s Office is suing a Williston man for allegedly marking up the price of surgical face masks 500 percent before selling them to Central Vermont Medical Center.
The state accuses Big Brother Security Programs and its owner, Shelley Palmer, of paying 10 cents each for the masks and re-selling them to the hospital for $2.50 each.
Attorney General T.J. Donovan said that’s a violation of the Vermont Consumer Protection Act, which defines price gouging as “an unconscionable increase in the cost of goods during a declared emergency.
The complaint says the masks and other personal protective equipment are in short supply as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, and Palmer “took advantage of disruptions to normal supply chains” to unfairly raise the price. According to the complaint, in February, as the pandemic began to unfold in the U.S., Central Vermont Medical Center could purchase the masks for 6 cents each.
“Protecting hospitals and medical professionals from unfair practices involving medical equipment is a top priority,” Donovan said in a statement. “These folks are on the front lines saving lives during a public health emergency. We need to do everything we can to protect them so that they can continue to protect us.”
Donovan’s office is seeking restitution for Central Vermont Medical Center, penalties, and injunctive relief.
Palmer has a court hearing scheduled for next week.