Razer’s Pricey Covid Mask Is Costing Them $US1 Million In Refunds

Razer’s Pricey Covid Mask Is Costing Them $US1 Million In Refunds

In 2021, video game accessory manufacturer Razer announced its plans to release a mask that people could wear to help stop the spread of COVID-19 during the height of the (still ongoing) pandemic. Now, almost three years later, the company owes the U.S.’ Federal Trade Commission over $US1 million in fines due to “misrepresenting” the mask’s N-95 certification.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane. But not the nice one with cute fences and lovely trees. Instead, we’re heading down a dark, nasty memory lane to remember the state of the world in October 2021. The pandemic was raging, people were dying, and most folks were desperate for a good mask or any way to protect themselves and others from the virus.

It was at this point that Razer—a company known for making keyboards and other gaming gear covered in RGB lights—released its own protective mask, the Zephyr Mask. It featured replaceable filters, a clear plastic front so you can see people’s mouths, and, yes, RGB lights. Initially, Razer reportedly marketed the mask as being N-95 certified. However, according to people who checked out the mask firsthand, that wasn’t true. Razer did, eventually, stop marketing the mask as N95-certified, but the damage was done. And now the company owes over $US1 million in fines for its dangerous blunder.

On April 29, the FTC posted a press release confirming that Razer’s $US100 Zephyr mask was never submitted for testing to the FDA or the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. It was also never officially certified as an N95 mask, a high-quality classification that comes with strict requirements that the mask did not meet. The FTC also believes the company participated in “false advertising” and only stopped falsely claiming the mask was N95-grade following “negative press coverage and consumer outrage.”

“These businesses falsely claimed, in the midst of a global 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, “The FTC will continue to hold accountable businesses that use false and unsubstantiated claims to target consumers who are making decisions about their health and safety.”

As explained in the press release:

The [FTC/Justice Department] complaint alleges that the defendants misrepresented the Razer Zephyr as an N95-equivalent mask that met standards established by NIOSH, the agency that approves N95 respirators. By definition, N95 respirators must filter at least 95 percent of ambient air particles between .1 and .3 micrometers in size, with even higher filtration levels for larger particles. While respirators and masks are designed for different purposes, N95 respirators are frequently referred to as N95 masks.

Despite the N95-related claims the defendants made in their ads, Razer never submitted a facemask to NIOSH for approval for any type of certification and NIOSH accordingly never certified any version of the Zephyr mask as an N95 respirator. The defendants also never sought or received permission from NIOSH to use the term N95 in marketing and selling its products. Accordingly, the defendants never had the required approval to advertise the Zephyr as an N95 facemask.

As a result of all this, the FTC has slapped Razer with a $US100,000 civil penalty and is also forcing the company to pay the United States $US1,071,254.33, which is the amount of money Razer brought in from selling the Zephyr mask. The FTC will provide full refunds to all consumers who purchased the mask.

Also, the FTC and US Govt. are banning Razer from “making, without prior FDA approval, any claims that any [Razer] product prevents or reduces the likelihood of infection with, or transmission of, the COVID-19 virus; reduces the severity or duration of covid-19; or otherwise, cures, mitigates, or treats COVID-19.”

You would think that seems like something the government shouldn’t have to tell a video game peripheral maker, but apparently, in 2024, that’s not the case. Weird stuff.

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