SALEM — Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced settlements with five Oregon companies for consumer protection violations related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The announcement came in a press release Tuesday, Nov. 17, and also reminded Oregon businesses that Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order banning excessive pricing of essential goods and services remains in effect.
Two convenience store chains, a Portland-based sock merchant, a travel business and a Bend skincare company each has to pay $12,500-$21,500, depending on the severity and number of violations.
The settlements, or Assurances of Voluntary Compliance, are the latest actions the Oregon Department of Justice has taken to address the unprecedented number of complaints Oregonians have reported during the pandemic, the press release stated. The price gouging hotline the AG’s office operates received more than 1,000 reports of price gouging.
Plaid Pantry paid the largest settlement, the AG’s office reported, for charging excessive prices for face masks.
The state justice department in the spring received a complaint about the price of four-pack face masks at Plaid Pantry. The investigation revealed Plaid Pantry purchased the masks for $4.50 per four pack and sold 9,000 of them between May and June for nearly double that price. In March, the justice department received similar complaints about 7-Eleven stores in Portland, Salem and Eugene.
The two chains, according to the press release, ceased selling the masks for excessive prices.
The DOJ also investigated two businesses that made claims their products could prevent, cure or mitigate the effects of COVID-19.
Live Your Colour Inc. in Portland agreed to pay $15,000 for advertising that its silk socks could protect against COVID-19. And Sher-Ray Inc., a Bend organic skincare company, advertised an aromatherapy diffuser blend as a possible cure or mitigation for COVID-19.
The press release stated the businesses agreed not to make COVID-19 representations about their products without competent and reliable scientific evidence to support the claims.
The DOJ also reviewed the refund practices of EF Tours, a travel company that organized domestic and international educational trips for more than 1,500 of Oregon high school students and teachers. The company agreed to increase the amount of refunds in accordance with Oregon law.
, which requires businesses to refund prepaid amounts if they do not provide goods or services and do not have a good-faith reason for keeping the money.