Minnesota-based 3M has filed a lawsuit against an Ontario company that allegedly claimed a phoney affiliation with the U.S. medical-gear maker to sell hard-to-find N95 face masks at exorbitant prices.
The lawsuit, filed in Ontario Superior Court, alleges that Caonic Systems Inc. set up a web domain on the e-commerce platform Shopify and used it to sell masks that it claimed had been made by 3M in Singapore and the United Kingdom.
It further alleges that the company continued to market the masks on different Shopify-based sites after 3M complained, with an asking price of $17 apiece — five times the suggested retail price.
3M, which was at the centre of a short-lived dispute with the White House over its long-standing export agreements with Canada and Mexico for personal protective equipment, has been aggressively cracking down on price-gouging during the COVID-19 pandemic ever since.
The company has already launched similar legal action in several U.S. states accusing resellers of trying to capitalize on the shortage of equipment, but the lawsuit announced Tuesday is the first time the effort has crossed into Canada.
U.S. President Donald Trump called out 3M two weeks ago for exporting its N95 masks outside the country, but the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency has since carved out exemptions for Canada and Mexico to ensure the exports can continue.