An Athens couple is facing a lawsuit after allegedly hoarding hundreds of bottles of hand sanitizer during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and selling them online for 11 times the retail price, according to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.
Marcus and Ellen Fultz sell products on Amazon under the name Danielle-on-2nd, which had a principal place of business in Athens. In addition, Ellen was an employee of Ohio University, but was put on administrative leave pending an investigation on June 18, OU spokesperson Carly Leatherwood stated in an email. Ellen was the Executive Director of Development, Major Giving. Her annual salary was $139,474, Leatherwood said.
The lawsuit, filed in Athens County Common Pleas Court on June 17, cites violations of Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act (CSPA), saying the couple “unfairly inflated prices in response to unforeseen events that caused an increase in demand during a national health crisis,” according to the Attorney General’s press release.
The couple allegedly acquired bulk quantities of hand sanitizer and listed them for sale, jacking up the price by as much as 1,017.3 percent, according to the lawsuit.
“... seeing an opportunity to profit from the increase in demand for these essential products, Defendants (the Fultszes) began to rapidly acquire a significant volume of certain products — specifically hand sanitizer — and sold the products via Amazon,” the lawsuit stated. “Defendants’ bulk acquisitions exacerbated the growing shortage of hand sanitizer available in the marketplace for purchase by those with health concerns and health care workers.”
Amazon records show the couple raked in more than $26,700 from the sale of 600 Purell hand sanitizer products in February and March, according to the lawsuit. Compared to the average cost of the same products sold on Amazon in January, the couple reportedly raised prices by 241.8 percent to 1,017.3 percent, the lawsuit stated.
Marcus and Ellen Fultz reportedly charged $39.44 for 8-ounce bottles of Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer Refreshing Gel, a product that cost $3.53 on Amazon prior to the pandemic, the press release stated.
The state is asking the court to grant an order requiring them to reimburse affected customers, the Attorney General’s press release stated. In addition, the couple faces a civil penalty up to $25,000 “for each separate and appropriate violation of the CSPA.”