Companies seeking to capitalize on the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic by offering fake vaccines and treatments, or by ratcheting up prices of hand sanitizers and disinfectant sprays are being held to task by New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office.
“On my watch, we will not tolerate schemes or frauds designed to turn large profits by exploiting people’s health concerns,” James said in a news release. “While there remains no cause for widespread panic, some people are looking to prey on others’ anxiety and line their own pockets. My office will remain vigilant in ensuring that we find and stop such unlawful activity and continue to ask the public to report suspected fraud, scams, or price gouging to my office.”
This week, James issued a cease and desist letter to Finest Herbalist, a company specializing in the sale of CBD, for marketing Pure Herbal Total Defense Immunity Blend as a treatment or cure for COVID-19. The company promoted the product with phrases such as: “Protection From Corona Virus With Immunity Oil.” Finest Herbalist was ordered to stop marketing and selling the products, and advised to put a disclaimer on all web pages displaying the product indicating that it is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, including COVID-19.
James’ office has sent multiple cease and desist letters to individuals and companies including TV host Wayne Allyn Root, Alex Jones, The Silver Edge company, Dr. Sherill Sellman, and doomsday televangelist Jim Bakker for pushing products as treatments or cures for COVID-19.
Last month, James’ office issued a cease and desist letter to New York City merchant Scheman & Grant Hardware, doing business as Ace Hardware, in Midtown Manhattan, which had racked up the price of hand sanitizers to $79.99 for a 1200mL bottle. Another letter was sent to City Fresh Market in Astoria, Queens, for charging $14.99 for a 19oz bottle of disinfectant spray.
Scheman & Grant Hardware was also fined by New York City officials for price gouging on face masks.
New York law prohibits the sale of goods and services necessary for the health, safety, and welfare of consumers at unconscionably excessive prices during any abnormal disruption of the market, James’ office said.