FTC fines makers of potentially lethal sterilizers

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FTC fines makers of potentially lethal sterilizers

The Fair Trade Commission said yesterday it is accusing four distributors of sterilizers on charges of putting misleading information on the labels of their products prior to the start of this year.

Each of the four products indicated on their outer packaging that they do not include any materials that are harmful to humans. However, the companies did not conduct any prior research to check the validity of their respective claims, the watchdog said.

The companies in question are Oxy Reckitt Benckiser, Homeplus, Butterfly Effect and Atorganic.

Each of the sterilizers was found to contain polyhexamethylene guanidine and Oligo 2-ethyl guanidine chloride. Sterilizers that include either were banned for sale here last August after a number of pregnant women died from a mysterious respiratory virus. It later came to light that the fatalities were caused by the materials in sterilizers.

The Center for Disease Control ordered the four companies and others to recall products containing such chemicals in November.

Although the products are not currently being sold, the commission is suing the four companies for neglecting their duties by not testing the products properly before advertising them as being safe.

“It is easy for consumers to be misled when they see such statements on the label,” said Lee Tae-hwi, director of the consumer division at the FTC’s Seoul office. “We expect this decision to serve as a wake-up call for businesses, who must only distribute products that are safe for human use.”

The commission also imposed a fine of 50 million won ($43,600) on Oxy Reckitt and slapped Homeplus and Butterfly Effect with penalties of 1 million won each.

“The fines are calculated at up to 2 percent of related sales over the period that the unfair trading activities occurred,” Lee said.

By Lee Sun-min [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]
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