WASHINGTON—This week, the Department of Justice warned that sellers will be held accountable for violating antitrust laws during the coronavirus crisis, according to TheHill.com.
The DOJ said companies or individuals will be held accountable for fixing prices or rigging bids for any equipment that consumers might use against the virus, such as gloves, face masks and respirators.
“The Department of Justice stands ready to make sure that bad actors do not take advantage of emergency response efforts, healthcare providers, or the American people during this crucial time,” Attorney General William Barr said in a press release. “I am committed to ensuring that the department’s resources are available to combat any wrongdoing and protect the public.”
The DOJ also warned against competitors that agree to allocate consumers of public health products among themselves. It has set up a Procurement Collusion Strike Force for collusive practices during the sale of products to federal, state and local agencies.
The Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission wrote to seven companies on Monday over alleged sales of fraudulent products. They regularly monitor online vendors for fraud health products and are on high alert during the current outbreak.
"We appreciate the Department of Justice’s swift response to Consumer Brands’ request to combat price gouging and ensure American consumers have access to critical products at affordable prices," the Consumer Brands Association said in a statement. "The Consumer Brands Association represents companies that work every day to keep products available and affordable for Americans. Price gouging undermines that mission and threatens public health as we navigate coronavirus.”
The World Health Organization yesterday declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic as confirmed cases worldwide topped 120,000 with more than 4,000 deaths.