SALEM, Ore. — Oregon's Department of Justice has settled with five companies accused of price-gouging and other consumer protection complaints related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced Tuesday.
The companies named in the settlements include two major convenience store chains, a Portland-based sock merchant, a travel firm, and a skincare company.
“As Oregonians continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, these actions are a reminder that as your AG, I will not tolerate price gouging and other unconscionable trade practices,” said Attorney General Rosenblum. “Most businesses are following the law. Those that are not should take note: the Oregon Department of Justice will investigate, and we will hold you accountable. The penalties for violations are significant.”
Rosenblum's office said that these settlements are known as "Assurances of Voluntary Compliance," requiring the businesses to pay between $12,500 and $21,500, depending on the severity and number of violations.
The highest penalty went to convenience store chain Plaid Pantry, accused of charging "unconscionably excessive prices" for face masks. Rosenblum's office said that the DOJ received a complaint in the spring that Plaid Pantry was selling a four-pack of face masks for seemingly inflated prices.
"The investigation revealed Plaid Pantry purchased these masks at a cost of $4.50 per four pack and sold 9,000 of them between May and June for nearly double the purchase price," the AG's office said.
Also in March, the DOJ received similar complaints about prices on individual masks sold at 7-Eleven stores. Both chains later agreed to stop charging excessive prices for face masks.
Two other DOJ investigations involved businesses claiming that their products could "prevent, cure, or mitigate the effects of COVID-19." Live Your Colour, Inc. agreed to pay $15,000 for advertising that its silk socks could protect against COVID-19, the AG's office said. Bend-based skincare company Sher-Ray, Inc. advertised one of its products, an aromatherapy diffuser blend called “Respiratory Remedy” as a possible way to prevent getting COVID-19.
Both businesses agreed to stop making claims about their products' efficacy relating to COVID-19 without scientific evidence to support it.
Finally, the DOJ looked into the refund practices of EF Tours, a travel company that had arranged educational trips for more than 1,500 Oregon high school students and teachers. As part of the settlement, the company agreed to "increase the amount of refunds offered to consumers in accordance with Oregon law," the AG's office said.