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In two separate cases, the marketers of ozone generators for use in homes and offices have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission allegations that they made unsubstantiated claims about the ability of the products to clean air of various indoor air pollutants and to prevent or relieve allergies, asthma and other conditions. The marketers include two Minnesota-based sister companies -- Living Air Corporation and Alpine Industries, Inc.-- and Quantum Electronics Corporation of Warwick, Rhode Island.

Under the settlements, the companies and their principal officers would be prohibited from making similar claims, or any other claims about the efficacy, performance, or health-related benefits of any air cleaners, unless the claims are supported by adequate substantiation.

These are the first cases that the FTC has brought involving air cleaners that generate ozone. Ozone generators are machines that circulate room air through an electrically charged plate. The plate converts the oxygen into ozone, which is then recir- culated into the room by a fan in the unit.

In one complaint detailing the charges, the FTC named: Living Air Corporation, based in Coon Rapids, Minnesota; Alpine Industries, Inc., based in Blaine, Minnesota; and William J. Converse, an officer of both companies. These respondents' products include the Living Air Model XL15, which sells for about $600. In a second complaint, the FTC named Quantum Electronics Corporation, based in Rhode Island; and its officers, Albert O. Coates, Maurice Lepenven, and Jacqueline J. Maynard. These respondents market the Panda 200 for about $400, and other ozone generators.

The FTC alleged that the respondents advertised, labeled and sold their ozone generators as air cleaning products for use in homes, offices, and other commercial establishments. According to the complaint, advertisements and promotional materials for the products represented that:

  • the products eliminate or clear specified chemicals, gasses, mold, mildew, bacteria and viruses, or dust from the environment;
  • the use of ozone is more effective than air cleaners using filters in cleaning or purifying indoor air;
  • the products do not create harmful by-products; and
  • the products prevent or provide relief from allergies, asthma, and other specified conditions.

The FTC alleged that the respondents did not have adequate evidence to back up these claims.

The proposed consent agreements to settle the charges, announced today for public comment, would require the respondents to have competent and reliable scientific evidence to support claims of the type challenged by the FTC for any air cleaning product. Any representations about the efficacy, performance, or health-related benefits of any air cleaning product would have to be supported by competent and reliable evidence, which when appropriate must be scientific evidence.

The proposed settlements would require the companies to notify any officers or employees involved in preparing and placing their advertisements, as well as present distributors and retailers, of the FTC action.

Finally, the settlements contain various reporting pro- visions that would assist the FTC in monitoring the respondents' compliance.

The Commission vote to accept the proposed consent agreements for public comment was 5-0. The consents will be published in the Federal Register shortly and will be subject to public comment for 60 days, after which the Commission will decide whether to make them final. Comments should be addressed to the FTC, Office of the Secretary, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.

NOTE: A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission of a law violation. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of $10,000.

Copies of the complaints, the proposed consent agreements, and analyses of the agreements to assist the public in commenting, are available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, same address as above.

(FTC File Nos.: Living Air et al. 932 3112; Quantum 932 3111)