Two Tennessee brothers will avoid paying a fine after settling state price gouging charges for stockpiling 17,700 bottles of hand sanitiser purchased from regional stores for online resale as the coronavirus pandemic was taking off.
Matt and Noah Colvin settled misdemeanour charges with the Tennessee attorney general’s office on Tuesday after they agreed to donate their supplies to a Tennessee nonprofit and officials in Kentucky and said they would refrain from such activity in the future. The donation was ultimately considered restitution enough, the attorney general’s office said.
“Disrupting necessary supplies during an unprecedented pandemic is a serious offence,” said Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III in Nashville. “It became clear during our investigation that the Colvins realised this, and their prompt cooperation and donation led to an outcome that actually benefited some consumers.”
The settlement is subject to court approval.
In Tennessee, it is illegal for vendors to charge too much for essential goods or services in direct response to a disaster.
The two brothers became the object of nationwide fury after they admitted to driving to various stores in Tennessee and Kentucky to purchase hand sanitiser for resale on Amazon and eBay. They sold 300 of the bottles for $8 to $70 each, Matt Colvin told The New York Times last month.
When the brothers’ online stores were shut down over price gouging complaints, Matt Colvin told the Times that he was suddenly stuck with 17,700 bottles of hand sanitiser and no one to sell them to.
“From being in a situation where what I’ve got coming and going could potentially put my family in a really good place financially to, ‘What the heck am I going to do with all of this?’” he said.
Local authorities then came knocking on their door.
In a later interview with the Times, Matt Colvin expressed remorse, saying he didn’t realise how bad the coronavirus outbreak would get.
“When we did this trip, I had no idea that these stores wouldn’t be able to get replenished,” he said. “It was never my intention to keep necessary medical supplies out of the hands of people who needed them.”
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