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Orange City woman accused of online price gouging must halt sales

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ORANGE CITY, Iowa -- An Orange City woman accused of selling toilet paper and other COVID-19 pandemic-related items for inflated prices has agreed to stop selling the goods on online sales platforms such as eBay.

Brenda Noteboom and the Iowa Attorney General's Office agreed to a consent judgment in which she and any partners or employees will be prohibited from buying and selling items such as masks, gloves, toilet paper, sanitizers, disinfectants and other cleaning supplies needed by victims of COVID-19 or any disaster during any declared emergency and recovery period. She also is prohibited from doing so under any other name or online user name. She may buy the items for her own personal use.

Noteboom must pay $1,000 to the Attorney General's Office. Half of the total will help offset the state's attorney fees and investigation costs, and the other half is assessed as a civil penalty.

According to the consent judgment and order, filed Wednesday in Sioux County District Court, Noteboom denies that she violated the Iowa Consumer Fraud Act and Iowa Price-Gouging Rule but agreed to the judgment to avoid ongoing litigation. She has provided refunds to purchasers.

"Price gouging is a harmful practice at any time, but it exacerbated the difficulties many faced during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who attempt to sell items at excessive prices should be held accountable for their actions. We are pleased with the outcome in the cases against both Brenda Noteboom and her brother, Michael Noteboom. Both individuals provided refunds to consumers and agreed to no longer sell household items online during a state of emergency," Attorney General's spokeswoman Ashlee Kieler said.

Michael Noteboom reached a similar agreement with the Attorney General's Office in January for similar online price-gouging tactics

The Attorney General's Office sued Brenda Noteboom in August, accusing her of selling dozens of items at prices far above market value, including a 12.5-ounce can of Lysol disinfectant spray for $62 and a six-pack of Charmin toilet paper for $49.99 on eBay.

The lawsuits against the Notebooms were the first two the state filed against an online seller for violating the price-gouging law during the pandemic.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on March 9, 2020, issued a disaster declaration, triggering the state's price-gouging rule, which forbids charging excessive prices for goods or services needed by disaster victims. Sellers on online auction sites are not exempt from the law.

According to court documents, Brenda Noteboom made more than $5,500 by selling more than 320 items, including toilet paper, paper towels, and disinfecting and sanitizing products, on eBay in March 2020.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division has received hundreds of reports and complaints of price gouging. Businesses or individuals found in violation of the price-gouging law are subject to civil penalties of up to $40,000 under the Iowa Consumer Fraud Act.

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