The state attorney general’s office announced it is investigating the Muskegon-based EM General for allegedly ripping off customers who paid for face masks, including the highly coveted N95 masks that healthcare workers need, but never received the products.
The company, which has a registered address of 1240 Amity Ave., is “likely in violation” of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act for reportedly price-gouging, misleading customers about its products, advertising goods or services without the intent to provide those to purchasers, and failing to give consumers refunds, according to an April 16 press release from the attorney general’s office.
“My office will act swiftly against any business that thinks it can dupe consumers,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said in the press statement. “We will continue to investigate complaints and take appropriate action to ensure consumers are being treated fairly and that they are not being taken advantage of by companies that are explicitly breaking our laws.”
EM General’s website had been selling N95 masks for about $25 a piece, with a 10-pack box of the N95 masks selling for closer to $15 per mask, according to the attorney general’s office. N95 masks are tightly fitting masks that are being used by healthcare workers across the country to protect themselves from the coronavirus; nurses in Muskegon, and throughout the nation, have faced shortages of this kind of protective gear.
Numerous customers reported they never received their masks after ordering them from EM General, and the Better Business Bureau provided the attorney general’s office with 87complaints about the company. According to the attorney general, EM General blamed delays in providing the product on high demand and a “nationwide lockdown,” which does not exist.
EM General did not respond to a request for comment.
The attorney general’s office cited stories from a number of customers who paid for masks that have not arrived, including one victim who reported receiving emails from the company that said the demand for N95 masks were high and that there were delays in shipping because they were “importing masks from Turkey.”
As part of its investigation, the attorney general’s office issued subpeonas for records from EM General on April 14 for information about the company’s business practices, including sales records and other financial information, customer correspondances, and supply of goods and advertising records. The subpoenas will also be used to acquire testimony from EM General employees. Muskegon County Circuit Court Judge William Marietti granted the attorney general’s petition for the subpoenas.
Nessel’s office noted that some masks are currently being advertised as N95 masks–but may actually be imported counterfeits that do not offer the same protection. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers guidance on how to distinguish between legitimate respirators and counterfeits.
Consumers can file a complaint online regarding price gouging or other offenses or by calling the consumer protection tip line, 877-765-8388. Hours of operation are between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.