Oreck has agreed to stop making allegedly false and unproven claims that two of its appliances can reduce the risk of flu and other illnesses, and eliminate virtually all common germs and allergens. The company also has agreed to pay $750,000 to the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC had objected to Oreck's claims for the Oreck Halo vacuum and the Oreck ProShield Plus air cleaner.
The Halo is an upright vacuum cleaner with a light chamber that generates ultraviolet light onto the floor while vacuuming. The ProShield Plus is a portable air cleaner that filters air particles using an electrostatic charge. The Halo retailed for $599.95, while the ProSheiled Plus cost as much as $399.95.
During the 2009 holiday season, Oreck's online ads pictured the Halo and the ProShield Plus side by side under the headline “Introducing the Oreck Flu Fighters, Help Reduce the Flu on Virtually any Surface and in the Air in Your Home” and claimed that the Prosheild Plus “captures and destroys many airborne viruses like the flu.”
An infomercial for the Oreck Halo claimed: “The Oreck Halo has killed up to 99.9 percent of bacteria exposed to its light in one second or less,” and that the vacuum’s light chamber “has been tested and shown to kill up to 99.9 percent of certain common germs, plus dangerous pathogens like E. Coli and MRSA.”
The FTC charged Oreck Corporation with making these allegedly false and deceptive claims about the Halo vacuum cleaner:
The Halo and the ProShield Plus prevent or substantially reduce the risk of flu.
The Halo and the ProShield Plus prevent or substantially reduce the risk of other illnesses or ailments caused by bacteria, viruses, molds, and allergens – such as the common cold, asthma, and allergy symptoms.
The Halo eliminates all or almost all common germs and allergens found on the floors in users’ homes, and is scientifically proven to do so.
The Halo’s ultraviolet light is effective against germs, bacteria, dust mites, mold, and viruses embedded in carpets.
The ProShield Plus eliminates all or almost all airborne particles from a typical household room under normal living conditions, and is scientifically proven to do so.
The complaint also alleges that Oreck provided deceptive advertisements to its franchised stores for their use in marketing the Halo and the ProShield Plus. According to the FTC, by doing so, Oreck provided the means and instrumentalities to its distributors to deceive consumers.
Under the terms of the administrative settlement, Oreck is barred from making any of the allegedly deceptive claims it challenged in the complaint for any vacuum cleaner or any air cleaning product – unless it has competent and reliable scientific evidence to support the claims.
The company also is prohibited from making any claims about a product’s comparative health benefits without competent and reliable scientific evidence, and from misrepresenting the results of any scientific test, study, or research.