FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASECIV
MONDAY, APRIL 9, 2001(202) 514-2007
WWW.USDOJ.GOVTDD (202) 514-1888
"AIR PURIFIER" MANUFACTURER ORDERED TO PAY $1.49 MILLION
Judge Bans Company From Making Unsupported Product Benefit Claims
WASHINGTON, DC - A federal judge has ordered Alpine Industries, Inc. and the company's president, William J. Converse, to pay a civil penalty of $1.49 million, plus interest, for violating a consent order into which they entered with the Federal Trade Commission, Stuart E. Schiffer, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department's Civil Division and Carl K. Kirkpatrick, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee announced today.
The civil penalty against the Greenville, Tennessee company, which manufactures and distributes "air purifiers" that emit ions and ozone, represents an assessment of $1,000 for each day that the defendants' violations continued between the effective date of the consent order, and November 1, 1999, the date on which the jury returned a verdict against the defendants. The consent order, which was entered into in 1995, prohibits the defendants from making product claims that are not backed up by "competent and reliable scientific evidence."
Alpine "air purifiers" are sold through a multi-level, or network, marketing system that primarily involves one-on-one sales to consumers in their homes. The units sold for residential use cost consumers between $400 and $625 each.
Magistrate Judge Dennis H. Inman also entered an injunction barring the defendants, and any person acting with or for them, from making any claims that the "air purifiers" remove indoor air pollutants except for "visible" tobacco smoke and some odors. The court cautioned the defendants cannot represent that these limited claims mean that the "air purifiers" actually remove chemicals, particles, or microorganisms. The court also barred the defendants from claiming that their products prevent or provide relief from medical conditions of any kind and from claiming that sensors in the machines control the ozone levels in indoor spaces.
The government alleged that the defendants had continuously violated the consent order by making, without scientific support, claims that their "air purifiers" removed a wide range of pollutants from indoor air, and that users would experience relief from many health problems, such as allergies, asthma, and sleep and respiratory disorders. After a trial, a jury found that none of the defendants' claims had any scientific basis except those regarding removal of "visible" tobacco smoke and some odors.
The government's case was handled by Elizabeth Stein, a Trial Attorney in the Office of Consumer Litigation of the Department of Justice and Assistant U.S. Attorney Helen C.T. Smith. They were assisted by Elena Paoli, an attorney in the Enforcement Division of the Federal Trade Commission.