ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Attorney General's Office has received nearly 500 reports of price gouging on essential goods since the COVID-19 pandemic reached Minnesota.

Spokesperson John Stiles said via email on Friday, March 27, that Attorney General Keith Ellison has received 483 complaints of price gouging, as defined in Gov. Tim Walz's Executive Order 20-10, in the past week. Stiles said the number of reports "compares to few to none" previously, as Minnesota is one of a handful of states that does not have an anti-price gouging law on the books.

Walz's March 20 executive order bans price gouging on essential goods and services through the pandemic. Nearly 400 Minnesotans have tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by coronavirus, and four have died of the illness. Walz declared a peacetime emergency and beginning Friday at 11:59 p.m., Minnesotans are to shelter in place in hopes of mitigating the spread.

Since the start of the pandemic, Ellison has cautioned Minnesotans to be wary of scammers attempting to take advantage of the pandemic and public fear, and warned of potential price gouging. On Friday, Ellison and 32 other attorneys general across the country signed a letter stating that online retailers, too are bound to comply with state anti-price gouging laws and executive orders.

According to Ellison's office, one Little Canada-based online retailer Dragon Door Publications, Inc. began selling N95 masks for $5 each plus shipping, and offered to donate masks if customers bought the company's nearly $500 fitness program.

With N95 masks being considered essential personal protective equipment, Ellison's office has filed to Ramsey County Court asking Dragon Door to discontinue selling the masks and issue refunds, or be liable for a $50,000 civil penalty.

Minnesotans who suspect cases of price gouging can report them online through Ellison's office or by calling 651-296-3353 in the metro or 800-657-3787 in Greater Minnesota.

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