A proposed class action lawsuit alleges UV Sanitizer USA has falsely and misleadingly advertised its portable ultraviolet (UV) light sanitizer in that the product cannot kill 99.99 percent of viruses, bacteria, germs and molds as promised and is not “completely safe to use.”
UV Sanitizer USA is alleged to have falsely touted its product as able to kill nearly all germs, viruses and bacteria despite the FDA’s stance that UV sanitizers must be supplemented with old-fashioned manual cleaning to work. The 32-page lawsuit also calls into question the defendant’s “100% safe” claim given the long-recognized dangers associated with the use of and exposure to UV radiation.
Filed in New York federal court against the backdrop of the global coronavirus pandemic, the lawsuit asserts that consumers such as the plaintiff relied on UV Sanitizer USA’s representations when purchasing the product, and would not have done so had they known the UV light sanitizer is, for all intents and purposes, useless without the help of soap-and-water scrubbing.
“Given that Plaintiff and Class Members purchased and paid a premium for the Product based on Defendant’s misrepresentations and omissions, Plaintiff and Class Members suffered an injury in the amount of the purchase price of the Product and/or the premium paid,” the complaint says, alleging violations of New York’s General Business Law and the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.
Representations versus reality?
The lawsuit alleges the defendant, amid a market where UV disinfection equipment sales are booming, has capitalized on consumers’ desire for products that eliminate viruses, bacteria and germs. According to the complaint, UV Sanitizer USA knows full well that reasonable consumers are willing to pay a premium for disinfectant products touted not only as able to kill a large percentage of viruses, germs and bacteria but also as healthier and safer alternatives to proven germ-killing chemicals.
In this light, the defendant prominently represents that its UV light sanitizer is laboratory tested and able to eliminate up to 99.99 percent of bacteria, germs and viruses using only ultraviolet light, the suit says. Among the defendant’s marketing claims, the company also says the product “[r]educes you and your loved ones [sic] chances of getting sick” and touts the UV light’s portability and the more than one million people using it. With regard to whether the UV light sanitizer is safe to use, the defendant claims UV light devices are “widely used in hospitals and are 100% safe,” not to mention approved by SGS and “developed and produced in an FDA approved facility,” the lawsuit says.
Perhaps most importantly in the eyes of the consumer, the defendant also prominently represents that its product can help save money on cleaning wipes and disinfecting chemicals, according to the suit.
The case charges, however, that UV Sanitizer USA’s product does not eliminate any harmful bacteria or viruses, much less kill 99.99 percent of viruses, bacteria, germs and molds. Further, the lawsuit argues the defendant’s representations of the safety of its product are particularly dangerous given the risks associated with using potentially harmful UV radiation.
Lawsuit cites FDA guidance on ultraviolet light use for cleaning, studies on health risks
The complaint relays that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued guidance for consumers who may be interested in buying Ultraviolet-C (UVC) products such as the defendant’s UV light sanitizer to disinfect surfaces or spaces. Per the lawsuit, the FDA has made clear that there is a limit to the disinfecting capabilities of such products, which the agency says should only be used if a consumer plans on also performing some manual cleaning.
From the suit:
According to the FDA, there are limitations to how effective UVC radiation can be at killing viruses. Importantly, per the FDA, UVC radiation can only inactivate a virus if the virus is directly exposed to the radiation. Therefore, the inactivation of viruses on surfaces may not be effective due to blocking of the UV radiation by soil, such as dust, or other contaminants such as bodily fluids. As a result, the FDA has made it clear that UV disinfecting devices are intended to augment disinfection of surfaces after manual cleaning has been performedand has recommended that in order to ensure the safe and effective cleaning of certain medical devices and accessories consumers and health care providers regularly clean those devices with soap and water."
The defendant has nevertheless hung the hat of its UV light sanitizer on claims of its effectiveness despite both a clear directive from the FDA and a lack of scientific supporting material regarding how well the UVC light works without additional manual cleaning, the case says, noting that UV Sanitizer USA’s website also appears to rebuke the FDA by claiming consumers can save on buying cleaning wipes and disinfecting chemicals.
“In fact, Defendant’s website explicitly states that using the Product will ‘Save cleaning wipes and disinfecting chemicals,’ implying, contrary to FDA recommendations, that manual cleaning is unnecessary,” the suit reads.
Further, the complaint claims the defendant’s product exposes users to potentially harmful UV radiation that may put them at risk for “DNA damage and carcinogenesis.” Cited in the lawsuit is a 1988 study that found UV radiations emitted by germicidal lamps with peak emissions within the UVC wavelength “represent a human health hazard, causing skin cancer, and cataracts.” Similarly, safety science experts at Underwriters Laboratories published a 2020 report that stated there is a lack of protection in UVC radiation-emitting devices sold to households, as well as a lack of proper containment within the devices from UVC emissions.
With this in mind, the lawsuit contends that a reasonable consumer “would not consider a product which emits radiation at a level that has been shown to cause skin cancer, cataracts, and other health hazards” to be “100% safe.”
“Defendant’s website and the Product packaging do not disclose these risks and do not contain adequate warnings or instructions for use of the Product to protect and ensure the safety of consumers,” according to the complaint.
At the end of the day, consumers rely on manufacturers’ label representations and marketing when making purchase decisions, the case states. Moreover, consumers lack the meaningful ability to “test or independently ascertain or verify” whether a product can actually kill the vast majority of harmful germs, bacteria, viruses and molds, much less if a product is truly safe, the suit stresses.
With regard to the defendant’s UV light sanitizer, the lawsuit says a reasonable consumer cannot be expected or required to research the specifications for UVC light and whether its “carcinogenic wavelengths” are a hazard.
Who does the lawsuit look to cover?
The lawsuit looks to represent all consumers nationwide, as well as a New York-only subclass of buyers, who bought UV Sanitizer USA’s UV light sanitizer.
I bought a UV light sanitizer. How do I join the lawsuit?
Now’s as good of a time as any to remind consumers that there is nothing you need to do to “join” or be considered “included” in a class action lawsuit and that you’ll typically only need to act when and if a case settles.
Class action cases almost always take time to work their way through the legal system, either toward a settlement or dismissal, so it might be a while before the time comes for those who bought a particular product or service to submit a claim for whatever compensation is approved by the court.
So, what should I do?
In the meantime, the best thing to do is stay informed. ClassAction.org will update this page with any significant developments in the case. To have class action lawsuit updates and news sent right to your inbox, sign up for our free weekly newsletter here.