- The Washington Times - Monday, March 23, 2020

President Trump signed an executive order Monday to crack down on retailers hiking prices on essential items in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, including masks and ventilators.

“We have some people hoarding. We want to prevent price gouging and critical resources are going to be protected in every form,” Mr. Trump said at a press conference Monday.

Attorney General William P. Barr said he ordered all 93 U.S. Attorney’s Office to appoint a lead prosecutor to tackle coronavirus-related price gouging.

The attorney general emphasized that the order will not target consumers who stockpile essential supplies, but rather individuals who are hoarding items with the intent of selling them at marked up prices.

“If you have a big supply of toilet paper in your house, this is not something you have to worry about, but if you are sitting on a warehouse with surgical masks, you’ll be hearing a knock on your door,” he said.



Under the Defense Production Act, the president has the authority to deem certain supplies as scare. Once an item is deemed scare, it is illegal to hoard them in excess of business need or sell them at a price greater than the general retail cost.

Mr. Barr said the Justice Department will meet with officials from the Department of Health and Human Services to decide which health items should be labeled scare.

One item expected to be deemed essential is N95 masks, which are critical to protect health workers from being infected with the virus. Prices for the masks were fetching more than $1,000 on online retail stores.

Ebay ultimately banned their sales of such masks to crack down on price gouging.

Under the Defense Production Act, the president has the authority to deem certain supplies as scare. Once an item is deemed scare, it is illegal to hoard them in excess of business need or sell them at a price greater than the general retail cost.

Mr. Barr said the Justice Department will meet with officials from the Department of Health and Human Services to decide which health items should be labeled scare.

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