The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a lawsuit against an online marketer for allegedly falsely promising consumers next-day shipping of face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
In the lawsuit, the FTC noted that SuperGoodDeals.com, Inc, and its owner, Kevin Lipsitz, tried to take advantage of increasing consumers demand for PPE due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has already claimed the lives of 132,056 people in the U.S. as of July 9.
The defendants started selling facemasks and other PPE through their website in March 2020. They claimed that the PPE was in stock and ready to ship the next day.
Allegations against SuperGoodDeals and its owner
The defendants stated, “We pride ourselves on fast order processing. Pay Today, Ships Tomorrow!” on the shipping and delivery page of their website. They also promised to respond to consumer inquiries “within 1 business day or less.”
The FTC alleged that the defendants’ promises were false in many cases. In fact, it took weeks for the defendants to ship orders, they failed to inform consumers of the delay, and ignored repeated demands for refunds.
Additionally, the Commission alleged that SuperGoodDeals and Lipsitz were selling counterfeit products through their website.
The defendants violated Section 5(a) of the FTC Act,15 U.S.C. § 45(a), which prohibits unfair or deceptive business practices. They also violated the Mail, Internet, or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule (MITOR), according to the Commission.
In a statement, FTC Consumer Protection Bureau Director Andrew Smith said, “Unscrupulous merchants are taking advantage of consumers in their hour of need by not delivering goods—including masks and other personal protective equipment—as promised, and failing to provide required refunds. The FTC will not tolerate this, and we are working closely with criminal authorities to put a stop to it.”
Separately, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York filed a criminal complaint against Lipsitz for allegedly violating the Defense Production Act and defrauding consumers.
U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said, “The defendant allegedly took advantage of the pandemic and the public’s urgent need for life-saving PPE to enrich himself illegally. Our Office and the Department’s COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force will continue working tirelessly to put an end to such conduct.”