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Oreck to pay $750,000 and to stop making health claims

Consumer Reports News: April 07, 2011 03:28 PM

The Oreck Corporation has agreed to stop making “allegedly false and unproven claims” that its Halo vacuum and ProShield Plus air cleaner can prevent illness, in a settlement announced today by the Federal Trade Commission. Oreck also agreed to pay the FTC $750,000.

During the 2009 holiday season, Oreck began advertising the pair of appliances together under the headline “Introducing the Oreck Flu Fighters.” The ads claimed that the vacuum and air cleaner would “help reduce the flu on virtually any surface and in the air in your home.” The vacuum sold for $600 and the air cleaner for $400.

The complaint against Oreck also alleged that Oreck provided “deceptive advertisements” to its franchises to use in marketing the Halo and ProShield Plus and that by doing so it was providing the means for its distributors to deceive consumers. Oreck agreed that it would stop making the health claims unless they could be backed up by solid scientific evidence.

The decision was two years in the making. Shortly after Oreck introduced the duo, vacuum maker Dyson initiated a challenge to its claims for the Halo with the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Better Business Bureau. Dyson was specifically concerned about Oreck’s claims that the Halo “can kill and reduce germs on all of your floors while you vacuum,” and also that it “reduced up to 99.9 % of bacteria in laboratory testing.”

After Oreck declined to participate in the NAD process, in which national advertising claims are reviewed for truthfulness and accuracy, the NAD referred the matter to the FTC. The agreement was approved 5-0 by that agency. It is subject to public comment for the next 30 days after which the Commission will decide whether to make it final.

Consumer Reports has tested both the Halo UVX (now discontinued) and Oreck Halo upright (no longer in our ratings). We operated under the premise that a vacuum need not kill pests as long as it removes them from the home and tested the vacuums the same way we test all models. The ProShield Plus is in our current ratings of air purifiers, where it did poorly. Oreck no longer makes germ-killing claims on its website.

Mary H.J. Farrell

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