On April 5, 2001, following a bench trial to determine civil penalties and equitable relief, the Federal District Court in Tennessee entered a civil penalty judgment for $1.49 million plus interest and costs against Alpine Industries and its principal, William J. Converse, the manufacturer and marketer of ozone-generating indoor "air cleaner" devices. The judgment followed a finding by a federal jury in Greeneville, Tennessee that Alpine and Converse made numerous claims and representations that violated the FTC's 1995 administrative order prohibiting unsubstantiated claims for Alpine's ozone-generating air treatment devices.
The civil penalty is the result of an action filed by the Department of Justice on the Commission's behalf in December 1997 alleging that Alpine violated a 1995 Commission order settling charges that it had misrepresented the effectiveness of its "air cleaning" machines. On November 1, 1999, the jury unanimously found that 129 Alpine promotional materials contained 865 unsubstantiated claims, including specific health-benefit claims. The company was found to have competent and reliable scientific evidence to substantiate only references to the removal of visible cigarette smoke and odors.
In addition to the civil penalty judgment, the court entered an injunction barring Alpine and Converse from making any claims that the "air purifiers" sold by the company remove any indoor air pollutant, except for "visible" tobacco smoke and some odors. It also cautioned the defendants that they cannot represent that these claims mean that the "air purifiers" actually remove chemicals, particles or microorganisms from indoor air. Finally, the court barred the defendants from claiming that their products prevent, or provide relief from, medical conditions of any kind or that sensors in the machines control the ozone levels in indoor spaces. (FTC File Nos. C-3614; X980005; Civil Action No. 2:97 CV 509 (E.D. Tenn.); staff contacts are Elena Paoli, 202-326-2974 or James Reilly Dolan, 202-326-3292; see press releases dated June 9, 1995; January 5, 1998; January 18, 2000; and April 18, 2000.)
Copies of the documents mentioned in this release are available from the FTC's Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies worldwide.
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