"These businesses falsely claimed, in the midst of a global pandemic, that their face mask was the equivalent of an N95 certified respirator."

Liar, Liar

Razer, a company best known for its PC gaming hardware, is being forced to refund over $1.1 million to the thousands of customers that bought its face mask, the US Federal Trade Commission announced on Monday, in a move that is part of the agency's effort "to combat COVID-related health product scams."

In its complaint detailing a proposed settlement, the FTC claimed that Razer advertised its Zephyr mask, which was sold for $100, as offering N-95 grade protection even though the company never submitted the product for testing and certification.

On top of the refunds Razer is being forced to pay, the FTC has slapped on a civil penalty of $100,000, barring the company from "from making COVID-related health misrepresentations or unsubstantiated health claims about protective health equipment."

Not Very Sharp

Sold in 2021 during the height of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Zephyr mask, in self-indulgently gamer fashion, was meant to offer respiratory protection with a heavy flair of RGB lighting. Anyone looking to mask up during the pandemic could do so with flashy cyberpunk aesthetics — provided they were shameless enough to wear this bulky cross between apparel and gaming hardware in public.

But at the very least it supposedly had a very practical upside. Per the FTC, Razer claimed that the Zephyr mask offered N-95 protection, meaning it was capable of filtering out over 95 percent of airborne particles — a claim made during rolling shortages of personal protection equipment (PPE), no less.

That quickly came back to haunt Razer. Soon after the release, a skeptical tech YouTuber released a scathing review that debunked the Zephyr's N-95 status. That in turn prompted Razer to remove any mentions of it from the product's page and all its advertising, plus a statement clarifying it wasn't actually PPE to boot. Talk about an about-face — or a mask-off moment.

"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, in a statement. "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."

Slap on the Wrist

Razer maintains it didn't do anything wrong.

"We disagree with the FTC's allegations and did not admit to any wrongdoing as part of the settlement," the company said in a statement to Gizmodo. "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."

However Razer decides to frame it, the allegation of putting customers lives at risk during a pandemic is so serious that you could argue that Razer's getting off the hook pretty easy. A $100,000 penalty is practically peanuts.

More on dodgy tech: Tesla's Autopilot and FSD Linked to Hundreds of Crashes, Many Fatal

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