FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz On Oreck's "Flu Reducing" Vacuum And Other Bad Ads

The FTC is in charge of keeping an eye on spurious claims from TV product ads — so ABC News sat down with FTC Chairman and friend-of-the-blog Jon Leibowtiz to discuss what manufacturers are, and are not, allowed to claim in their ads, as well as the hurdles the FTC faces in enforcing truth-in-advertising rules. Case in point, Oreck recently settled with the FTC over a vacuum that claimed to prevent the flu.

In a statement about the settlement the FTC said:

The FTC’s allegations involve the Oreck Halo vacuum and the Oreck ProShield Plus air cleaner. The Halo is an upright vacuum cleaner with a light chamber that generates ultraviolet light onto the floor while vacuuming. The ProShield Plus is a portable air cleaner that filters air particles using an electrostatic charge. The Halo retailed for $599.95, while the ProSheiled Plus cost as much as $399.95.

According to the FTC complaint, Oreck advertised these two products through infomercials, traditional television ads, print ads, in-store displays, and ads online. During the 2009 holiday season, online ads pictured the Halo and the ProShield Plus side by side under the headline “Introducing the Oreck Flu Fighters, Help Reduce the Flu on Virtually any Surface and in the Air in Your Home” and claimed that the Prosheild Plus “captures and destroys many airborneviruses like the flu.” An infomercial for the Oreck Halo claimed, “The Oreck Halo has killed up to 99.9 percent of bacteria exposed to its light in one second or less,” and that the vacuum’s light chamber “has been tested and shown to kill up to 99.9 percent of certain common germs, plus dangerous pathogens like E. Coli and MRSA.”

Oreck paid $750,000 to settle the charges, and is prohibited from making any claims about a product’s comparative health benefits without competent and reliable scientific evidence, and from misrepresenting the results of any scientific test, study, or research.

Infomercials: Reining in Bottom-Feeders [ABC News]
FTC Settlement Requires Oreck Corporation to Stop Making False and Unproven Claims That Its Ultraviolet Vacuum and Air Cleaner Can Prevent Illness [FTC]

And for more on awesome “as seen on TV” products, check out “Infomercial Nation” on this week’s edition of ABC’s “20/20.” The special includes a behind-the-scenes tour of the Consumer Reports labs, where their technicians put some of these products to the test. “Infomercial Nation” airs this Friday, May 20, at 10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CT. Check your local listings.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.