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Nearly 2,400 consumers who purchased Vanguard brand heat detectors will soon receive refunds that total almost $4 million, following a Federal Trade Commission suit against Figgie International, Inc. that charged the company had used misleading claims to sell the devices. The redress checks are being mailed out beginning today.

All eligible consumers who submitted a valid claim form and returned their heat detectors will receive a full refund, plus shipping costs and interest from the date of purchase. Redress checks will range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.

Consumers who purchased Vanguard heat detectors between May 17, 1980 and July 20, 1987 were eligible to receive the refunds by filing a claim form before Nov. 15, 1994. In June 1994, a federal court-appointed administrator was assigned to handle the claims process. As established by the court order, no claims may be considered after the Nov. 15, 1994 filing deadline.

The distribution of refunds to consumers stems from a 1987 Commission decision finding that Figgie had deceptively represented that Vanguard heat detectors provide sufficient warning in residential fires to allow occupants to escape safely, and that heat detectors respond more quickly than smoke detectors to hot, flaming fires. The FTC subsequently brought suit in federal district court in Los Angeles to obtain redress for consumers who had purchased Vanguard detectors. Consumers on average paid approximately $170 for each detector, often purchasing sets of five, six or more units. The court ordered Figgie to provide refunds to qualified consumers who requested them by the Nov. 15 deadline for all Vanguard heat detectors purchased during the specified period.

Figgie International is based in Willoughby, Ohio.

Copies of documents associated with this case are available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.