National Advertising Division Finds Certain HEPA Claims for Shark Air Purifiers Supported; SharkNinja Appeals Recommendation to Modify or Discontinue Others
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New York, NY – November 22, 2022 – In a challenge brought by Dyson, Inc., the National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs determined that SharkNinja Operating LLC provided a reasonable basis for claims that its Shark Air Purifier 4 meets or even exceeds HEPA standards but recommended that Shark discontinue these same claims for its Air Purifier 6.
The challenged claims include:
- “Capture 99.97% of dust, dander, odors, and more.”
- “Capture 99.98% of large, small, & micro-size particles.”
NAD also recommended that Shark:
- Discontinue claims that its air purifiers are better than other HEPA-labeled air purifiers because those purifiers leave behind pollutants.
- Discontinue its COVID-19 claims.
- Modify the “Clean Air 100%” claim by adding a clear and conspicuous disclosure explaining the basis of the claim.
Each of these filters is advertised as being a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter. HEPA filters are a type of pleated mechanical air filter that can remove at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and any airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns. HEPA filters can increase the air quality in a room over time and are often viewed as the gold standard in consumer-facing filtration products, such as air purifiers and vacuum cleaners.
HEPA Standards Claims
In support of Shark’s claims that its air purifiers meet or even exceed HEPA standards, the advertiser relied on testing conducted on the first batch of air filters from its production line (First Run Filters).
NAD considered whether the products being tested are representative of what consumers can purchase on the market and concluded that Shark’s testing of the First Run Filters was relevant for the Air Purifier 4. Further, NAD determined that the advertiser’s QC testing was reliable and was sufficient to provide a reasonable basis that its air filters, at least as of the time they left the production line overseas, met HEPA standards.
However, NAD concluded that, based on the challenger’s rebuttal testing of off-the-shelf filters for the Air Purifier 6, Shark’s production line testing was insufficient to support its HEPA claims for such filters.
Comparative HEPA Claim
NAD assessed the messages reasonably conveyed by Shark’s claim that its filters are “True HEPA” whereas other “HEPA-labeled air purifiers can emit up to 10x more particles back into the air” and “can leave behind smoke, carbon dust, virus carriers, and mold.” These claims are made alongside images of Shark’s air purifier and what appears to be an unbranded air purifier. A small disclosure below the unbranded purifier states “Based on IEST-RP-CC007.3. 01-02 microns vs. a leading HEPA labeled air purifier.”
NAD determined that Shark’s comparison of its “True” HEPA purifiers to other purifiers, without identifying a specific purifier, directly pits Shark’s product against all “HEPA-Labeled Air Purifiers.” Although the disclosure does state that the “10X more particles” claim was based on a test against “a leading” purifier, the disclosure is tied only to the quantified 10X claims. NAD found that at least one message reasonably conveyed by the advertising is that Shark’s purifier is a “True HEPA” filter and other HEPA-labeled filters may be inferior.
Because Shark did not provide any support for the message that its purifiers are superior to 85% of the market or that 85% of competitors in the market, including Dyson, emit harmful particulates notwithstanding their HEPA-labeling, NAD recommended that the claim be discontinued.
NAD noted that nothing in its decision prevents Shark from educating consumers that some HEPA-labeled air purifiers may fall short of HEPA standards in a non-comparative context.
NAD determined that Shark’s claim “CAPTURES airborne droplets that can carry bacteria & viruses, such as CORONAVIRUS” reasonably communicates several messages, including that Shark’s air purifier:
- Captures (but does not kill) the coronavirus;
- Will prevent consumers from getting sick from the virus, either in part or completely; and
- Provides sufficient protection from becoming infected with COVID-19 that other protections are not necessary.
NAD noted that CDC guidance makes clear that solutions like HEPA air filters or cleaners are only part of a multi-layered approach to mitigate and reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 and is intended for use with numerous other precautionary practices. Because none of that context is present in Shark’s advertising, NAD recommended that Shark discontinue its COVID-19 claims.
NAD noted that nothing in its decision prevents Shark from claiming that air filters can be used as part of multiple mitigation strategies to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and lower the risk of exposure.
Clean Air 100% Claim
Shark advertises that its air purifiers offer “Clean Air 100%” by prominently displaying images of its purifier, which has a display known as Clean Sense IQ, with the numbers “100%” under the words “CLEAN AIR.”
NAD noted that none of Shark’s advertisements that contain the “Clean Air 100%” claim provide any explanation of what is meant by 100%.
A claim of 100% cleanliness is a powerful claim, and in the absence of context that clearly conveys the basis of the claim, NAD found that consumers may reasonably take away a literal message—that the air surrounding the purifier is 100% clean of any pollutants. Therefore, NAD recommended that Shark modify the claim by adding a clear and conspicuous disclosure explaining the basis of the 100% claim.
Finally, during the proceeding Shark voluntarily agreed to permanently discontinue the claim that its filters “capture 99.97% of . . . odors.” Therefore, NAD did not review this claim on the merits.
In its advertiser statement, Shark stated that it “will appeal NAD’s decision.” The advertiser stated that while “it is pleased that NAD determined that Shark’s evidence . . .demonstrated that its filters meet the HEPA standard when they left the production line” and that “Shark provided a reasonable basis for its HEPA claims for the Shark Air Purifier 4,” it “disagrees with NAD’s other findings and recommendations.”
Appeals of NAD decisions are made to BBB National Programs’ National Advertising Review Board (NARB), the appellate-level truth-in-advertising body of BBB National Programs.
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