The novel coronavirus outbreak has caused people to panic-buy items like toilet paper, Lysol wipes and hand sanitizer — and one man saw this as an opportunity for major profit.
Matt Colvin, who purchased 18,000 bottles of sanitizer and tried to sell them online for US$70 a pop, is now under investigation by Tennessee’s attorney general.
“At the end of the day, we have nothing to hide,” Colvin told NBC affiliate WSAV3.
The Colvins received a cease-and-desist order stating that the attorney general’s office had reason to believe they were charging unreasonable prices for sanitizer, masks and other essentials.
Colvin and his brother have said they’ll be donating the products now, but the office says this doesn’t mean legal proceedings won’t occur.
“If evidence establishes they engaged in price-gouging, we will seek appropriate penalties,” Samantha Fisher of the attorney general’s office told the broadcast station.
While Colvin didn’t mention pricing to WSAV3, he once told the New York Times that some products were going for $70.
He told the Times that he posted 300 bottles of hand sanitizer on Amazon for $8 to $70 each, saying: “It was crazy money.”
The next day, his items and many others were taken down.
Though his actions are under investigation, Colvin told WRCB-TV that he didn’t anticipate the shortage and doesn’t feel he was taking advantage of people.
Online retail websites like Kijiji and Amazon have been cracking down on these kinds of practices.
Kijiji, for example, has banned listings for masks and hand sanitizer, as well as price-gouging.
The classifieds website made the announcement as it outlined best practices for buying and selling through the site during the pandemic.
It says it’s also temporarily removing listings for “disinfecting wipes and toilet paper” based on user feedback.
The website says it’s trying to “curb pricing practices that run counter to the community-minded spirit of Kijiji.”
Confused about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials say the risk is very low for Canadians, but they caution against travel to affected areas (a list can be found here). If you do travel to these places, they recommend you self-monitor to see whether you develop symptoms and if you do, to contact public health authorities.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing – very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.
For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.