SINGAPORE: Gaming hardware company Razer will have to pay more than US$1.1 million (S$1.5 million) to refund customers in the United States after it misrepresented the performance and efficacy of supposed N95-grade face masks known as Zephyr. 

Under the proposed settlement, it must also pay a civil penalty of US$100,000 along with its affiliated entities involved in the development, marketing and sale of the masks, said the Federal Trade Commission in a news release on Monday (Apr 29).

“These businesses falsely claimed, in the midst of a global (COVID-19) pandemic, that their face mask was the equivalent of an N95 certified respirator,” said Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. 

According to the FTC, Razer advertised the Zephyr masks as N95-grade even though they never submitted them for testing to the FDA or National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The masks, which were launched in 2021, were also never certified as N95.

“The complaint alleges that Razer only stopped the false advertising following negative press coverage and consumer outrage at the deceptive claims,” said FTC.

The US Department of Justice filed the case upon notification and referral from the FTC.

In response to CNA’s queries on Tuesday, a Razer spokesperson said: “We disagree with the FTC’s allegations and did not admit to any wrongdoing as part of the settlement.

“It was never our intention to mislead anyone, and we chose to settle this matter to avoid the distraction and disruption of litigation and continue our focus on creating great products for gamers.”

At the time, the Zephyr was conceived to “offer a different and innovative face-covering option for the community”. 

FTC’s claims against the company concerned “limited portions of some of the statements relating to the Zephyr”.

“More than two years ago, Razer proactively notified customers that the Zephyr was not a N95 mask, stopped sales, and refunded customers,” the spokesperson said. 

Razer is dual-headquartered in Irvine, California, and Singapore, according to the company on its website.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Razer set up a manufacturing line for face masks, including disposable ones, in Singapore.

But the Zephyr, according to a product review on Singapore-based technology portal HardwareZone in 2021, was touted as “the world’s smartest mask”. 

It had supposed N95-grade filters, which were replaceable, on each side of the ventilators and below the mask. The fans under the ventilators can be selected to spin at different speeds. 

By definition, N95 respirators must filter at least 95 per cent of ambient air particles between 0.1 and 0.3 micrometres in size, with even higher filtration levels for larger particles. 

The FTC said that Razer never sought or received permission from NIOSH to use the term N95 in marketing and selling its products. 


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