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A Chinese medical supplies company has been charging U.S. customers nearly four times its usual price for face masks that are in high demand because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, The Daily Mail reported citing a sale document.
The Hangzou, China-based company called Wehere Medical has been quoting suppliers $744 for packages containing 200 medical-grade masks that are in short supply, a Los Angeles distributor told the Mail.
The distributor said these masks that were once sold for $0.82 per mask are now being sold for $3.72 per mask. That's a 353-percent hike compared to Wehere's usual $164 price for the set of 200 masks.
A Wehere spokesperson told the Mail that the price hike was due to a "10-times" increase in the cost for raw materials used to make the masks, as well as higher labor costs to meet demand. The spokesperson added that Wehere also increased its number of masks per box to 200 instead of its usual number of 20 per pack.
Hospitals throughout the United States have been asking locals for donations of masks and other medical supplies because they cannot get them from suppliers fast enough.
As demand for these items soar, price gouging has become a familiar complaint across the nation and around the world in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
States can issue violations and impose fines on stores and companies that unreasonably hike prices of essential materials. State officials can go to court against sellers, which usually involves a price-gouging increase of 10 percent or more. About 10 states have no such law.
States do not typically try to resolve reports by pursuing fines or criminal charges. Instead, they confront the retailer, which typically apologizes and lowers the price.
House Democrats introduced a bill Wednesday aimed at curbing price gouging.
"It’s outrageous that some companies and individuals are taking advantage of American consumers by price gouging during the COVID-19 pandemic. Goods and services such as hand sanitizer, personal protective equipment and other medical supplies, and many other items would be covered by this bill because every American deserves access to these essential goods at a reasonable price," Reps. Jerry Nadler, Jan Schakowsky, David Cicilline and Frank Pallone said in a statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.