ON YOUR SIDE: Branson company responds to AG's lawsuit alleging price gouging

BRANSON, MO. -- An attorney representing a Branson company says his clients are trying to work with the Missouri Attorney General's Office.

However, that hasn't stopped the AG's office from filing a lawsuit against Tuning Element for alleged price gouging on masks.

"The attorney general has claimed there was a violation of the Merchandising Practices Act," Attorney Timothy Davis said.

Davis represents Tuning Element.

"Tuning Element disputes this on various factual and legal grounds," Davis said.

The AG's office says the company's price of $20 each for 5-layer KN95 masks, for example, was too high. It says those masks typically sell for no more than $6 each. However, Davis says the company was paying more, too, because masks are in high-demand during the pandemic.

"The cost at the factories have been driven to five to ten times higher than what they'd normally be," Davis said.

This lawsuit comes after the Attorney General's office sent a "cease and desist" letter to Tuning Element last month.

"Tuning Element stopped selling on its website, the masks just as such," Davis said.

The lawsuit claims the company didn't stop selling them like it was told. However, Davis says the company even asked the AG's office for permission before continuing to sell another type of mask.

"[The are selling masks] with some of Tuning Element's metal products embedded in the masks," Davis said.

Those masks are still listed for sale online.

Meanwhile, the AG's office also claims the company misrepresented the masks' approval by the FDA. The attorney says they were approved.

"Tuning Element only imported from this one factory when that factory met the FDA requirements," Davis said.

Davis says it could take years for this case to go to trial, unless it's settled first. Meanwhile, he says Tuning Element asked the AG's office to set what it considers a fair price, but received no guidance.

"I'm not sure what the AG's office expects us to do when we were willing to pick a price if they could come up with one. Or follow a formula or methodology if they could define one. But, they refused to do either," Davis said.

The lawsuit seeks restitution for people who bought the masks. It also seeks to prevent Tuning Element from, what the AG's office says is, continuing to gouge and use "deceptive practices."