JACKSONVILLE -- The latest volley in a widening battle over air purifiers sold by The Sharper Image was fired this week in Duval County Circuit Court.
Alicia M. Bryant, a Ponte Vedra Beach mother of three children with respiratory problems, sued the San Francisco-based retailer of high-tech items for home and office, claiming the Ionic Breeze air purifier she bought earlier this year does not perform up to the company's claims and does not conform to federal regulations on ozone emissions.
The Ionic Breeze air purifiers are machines that use electrostatic plate technology to purportedly clean the air of airborne irritants, allergens and pollutants, to eliminate odors and to freshen the air. The company's Web site says its line of air purifiers is among its best-selling items.
But when Consumer Reports magazine rated two of the Ionic Breeze models "poor" in its October article "Air Cleaners: Behind the Hype," in which it compared them to other room air cleaners, The Sharper Image sued Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, in federal court in San Francisco.
The suit, which claimed the magazine's findings were "false and misleading," was quickly countered by Consumers Union in October with a motion to strike The Sharper Image's suit under the Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation statute, a 1992 California law that protects against lawsuits designed to chill constitutional rights, particularly the right to free speech.
On the heels of Consumers Union's response, Los Angeles attorney Allan Sigel sued The Sharper Image in Los Angeles Superior Court, asserting the same claims made in the suit filed by Ponte Vedra Beach attorney Barbara Slott Pegg. Both seek class-action status on behalf of customers who bought Ionic Breeze air purifiers from The Sharper Image in the past four years.
Sigel said The Sharper Image neither indicated the maximum acceptable concentration of ozone that may be generated by the air purifier, nor did it indicate the smallest area in which the device could be used so as not to produce an ozone accumulation in excess of the maximum acceptable level. Because it does not effectively clean and deodorize the air, Sigel said, it does not eliminate viruses, bacteria and mold spores as labeled and sold -- a violation of Federal Trade Commission rules against "unfair or deceptive acts or practices."
An attorney for The Sharper Image said "we have no idea where they gained their premise, and looking at the complaint, it does not appear that they have any scientific basis for it."
He said the suit appears to be an attempt to get money from The Sharper Image "rather than have us engage in a vigorous defense."
For more information, contact:
Alan L. Wozniak, CIAQP
800-422-7873 ext. email@example.com
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