Proposed settlement in Sharper Image air purifiers case

Consumer Reports News: February 28, 2007 12:09 AM


If you suffer from asthma or allergies or have other concerns about the air quality at your home, you might own or be considering buying a room or whole-house air purifier.

One company whose purifiers we've covered in our previous reports, The Sharper Image, might soon have to offer millions of dollars in merchandise credits to 3.2 million members of a class action that challenged the company's claims about the products' "performance, effectiveness and safety," according to a January 16 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. A hearing on whether the recent proposed settlement will be accepted by a federal judge in Miami must be held prior to March 1, 2007.

If you bought any Ionic Breeze air purifier from The Sharper Image after May 6, 1999, you could end up getting $19 merchandise credit as part of the proposed settlement. To qualify for the credit, you must be in the company's customer database as the purchaser of an air purifier or prove that you bought one of the affected models. According to the proposed settlement, you could use the credit only to buy Sharper Image-branded products. There's a limit of one credit per household, and you would have one year to use the credit once it's been issued to you. In addition, you'd be eligible to buy for $7 (reduced from $39.95) the company's "OzoneGuard" attachment that, claims Sharper Image, "instantly converts ozone to oxygen." As we've previously reported, although the attachment does reduce ozone levels, even with this accessory the Sharper Image Ionic Breeze Professional with OzoneGuard adds ozone to a room and was "as ineffective as earlier versions" and does a poor job of removing smoke, dust, and pollen particles from the air.

As part of the proposed settlement, Sharper Image also agreed to dial back some of its claims about its purifiers and remove the seals of the British Allergy Foundation (Seal of Approval) and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (Seal of Truth) from packaging. As we revealed in "The truth behind the accolades," these seals seem a lot more impressive than they actually are.

Finally, the proposed settlement would also require Sharper Image to send its air purifiers to an independent laboratory to test for ozone emissions and not sell any model that has not passed the Underwriters Laboratories standard for electrostatic air cleaners. While denying all allegations, Sharper Image also agreed to pay up to $1.875 million in legal fees to the plaintiffs' attorneys.


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