Foxborough business accused of ‘price gouging’ PPE

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Keith Lambert sells a lot of stuff.

Toys, hats, stuffed animals, political merchandise—even fireworks—according to his various Facebook pages.

But his latest venture, selling personal protective equipment, has one consumer advocate accusing him of price gouging.

“It’s absurd. That is a price-gouging level,” said Deirdre Cummings, Legislative Director at the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, a consumer watchdog.

Lambert’s company, NE Rapid Health, sells hand sanitizer, masks, gloves and bandanas both on a website, NERapidHealth.com, and at a roadside stand in Foxborough.

According to the company’s prices online and in person, the costs include:

  • $8 for a four-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer
  • $15 for two KN95 masks
  • $2 for a single surgical mask

“I do think the prices are very high,” Cummings said after reviewing the products.

Workers sold the medical merchandise from a tent on the corner of Route 1 and North St. in Foxborough Wednesday morning.

Lambert spoke to Boston 25 News over the phone Thursday. He said he got into the PPE business sometime in March when he obtained a large order of hand sanitizer.

Although he admits he is trying to make a profit, he said his prices are indicative of the market right now, not an attempt to price gouge.

“The normal supply chain has nothing available,” he said in a phone interview Thursday afternoon.

“That’s just what the market is right now…it’s just what it is. It’s supply and demand,” Lambert said.

Lambert said he donated PPE to the Foxborough Police Department earlier this month.

“I have people in the healthcare service who are thanking me because they can’t get it anywhere else,” Lambert said.

“Yes, it’s a big rip off,” said Debbie Harrington.

Harrington is an executive director at a Somerville home healthcare company and has purchased PPE from outside companies for decades.

When she saw what NE Rapid Health was charging for medical supplies, she sent Boston 25 a video explaining what those same supplies normally cost her.

“There are the procedure [surgical] masks, I pay 12 cents each,” Harrington said. “Here is a 4-ounce bottle [of hand sanitizer] with aloe, and they sell for $1.18 each.”

Price gouging during the COVID-19 crisis is still a major concern for regulators.

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office received more than 320 complaints for price gouging involving consumer products, like toilet paper and bottled water, since the pandemic began.

Nearly a hundred more complaints involve the prices of PPE, according to a department spokesperson.

A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office said they have received one complaint about NE Rapid Health.

“Most of the complaints are about sellers that are allegedly increasing the prices of essential products like hand sanitizer, masks, gloves, paper towels, bottled water, disinfectants and toilet paper,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.

But it’s not just the prices that bother Cummings. She doesn’t think people should be buying medical supplies from a roadside stand.

“The fact that it’s not a brick and mortar place, it’s not a name brand that would go to and have confidence in, and then we really don’t know the quality of the product being sold,” Cummings said.

Last month, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office passed an emergency regulation prohibiting price gouging of essential goods during a declared emergency.

Anyone who suspects price gouging can file a complaint with the AG’s office online.

This story has been updated with a response from Keith Lambert.