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Sunday, May 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Class Sneezes at Flu-Fighting Oreck Vacuum

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Oreck markets its "flu-fighting" vacuum cleaners and air purifiers with false claims that they can "eliminate common viruses, germs and allergens, thereby helping to prevent the illnesses they cause," consumers say in a federal class action.

"Defendants represented to consumers that the products used scientifically proven technology to eliminate common viruses, germs and allergens, thereby helping to prevent the illnesses they cause," the complaint states. "However, these representations were false, deceptive and inaccurate. As such, Oreck's actions violated the Magnum Moss Warranty Act ('MMWA'), breached express warranties made by defendants, breached implied contractual warranties imposed by law, violated numerous California consumer protection statutes, and violated New York consumer protection statutes and common laws."

Lead plaintiffs Roxy Edge and Linda Gonzalez sued Oreck Corp. and three Oreck LLCs. They say the Nashville-based company cannot back up its claims that its vacuum cleaners and air-purifiers can "kill" bacteria and viruses.

Oreck claims that its Halo brand upright vacuum cleaner is "different from an ordinary upright vacuum" because of its "light chamber."

According to Oreck's ads, the product "'creates a powerful germicidal wavelength of UV-C light that can kill and reduce up to 99.9 percent of germs and bacteria helping you give your floors a healthier clean,'" the complaint states.

It continues: "This functionality was depicted in a number of different ways throughout Oreck's many advertising mediums. One such advertisement showed a man in a lab coat (apparently lending credence to Oreck's claims of scientific testing) vacuuming a floor surface with the Halo. Other advertisements featured the Halo eliminating simulated germs, bacteria and dust mite eggs below a carpeted floor surface. According to defendants, all of this was accomplished in less than one second of exposure to the light emitted from the Halo. One of Oreck's printed advertisements claimed that, 'when the light is on, germs are gone.'"

Oreck boasts of a similar "UV-C light" function for three lines of its air purifiers.

"In this product, Oreck didn't claim that the UV-C light, dubbed the 'Helios Shield,' killed germs, bacteria, molds, or viruses like the Halo. Although they were frequently advertised together, Oreck represented that the ProShield Plus air purifier 'uses ultraviolet light to smash the molecular structure of gases and odors' and 'uses UV light to remove many odors from the air.' Defendants also made very similar claims about their air purifiers' germ killing and flu fighting abilities, claiming the air purifiers would remove flu and other viruses, bacteria, mold and other pathogens from the air," the complaint states.

Oreck claims that its products prevent colds, diarrhea, stomach upsets, asthma and allergies, the class claims.

"Unfortunately for plaintiffs and the class, defendants' claims are not adequately supported by credible, scientific testing or other substantiation, and are not true," the complaint states.

The FTC this year fined Oreck $750,000 for "false and deceptive claims" and ordered it to stop claiming "Halo and the ProShield can kill bacteria, viruses and other pathogens, and thereby prevent illness," the complaint adds.

The plaintiffs seek class damages under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, for breach of express warranties, breach of implied warranty of merchantability, consumer law violations, unfair competition, false advertising and violations of New York General Business Laws.

They are represented by Behram Parekh, who did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Oreck spokesman John Van Mol told Courthouse News: "In this case no class has been certified. The company does not believe there is any merit to the plaintiffs' attorneys' case and it intends to vigorously defend the lawsuit."

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