Would you buy a $2,299 home air filtration system if it protects you from getting sick from COVID-19?
A salesman marketing the Atmosphere Sky air purifier from Amway thought he might have a willing buyer. But the salesperson didn’t realize the man he was pitching by phone, text and in person was a Global News consumer reporter.
“Yeah, it will do it. It will add value, I’m very much certain,” said Temitoke Sennaike, who showed up to make a sales presentation to a Global News crew at a Guelph, Ont., hotel.
Sennaike didn’t realize his presentation was being recorded on video until later.
Asked directly if the product could help prevent someone from contracting COVID-19 in their home, he answered, “sure, sure,” adding “it will do it.”
The Atmosphere Sky is an air purifier designed to remove airborne particles and minimize household odours.
But there is no evidence Atmosphere Sky can reduce anyone’s exposure to COVID-19.
Even so, a homeowner near London, Ont., found the Atmosphere Sky brochure at his doorstep in March with the claim.
The marketing literature said that the unit “removes 99.9% of airborne particles as small as .0024 microns (such as viruses including COVID-19, aka SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus).
The brochure included Sennaike’s phone number and email address and a price list: $2,299 plus tax for the first unit and a $100 discount off additional ones.
A Global News viewer believed the marketing message was false and wanted it investigated.
On March 20, Amway issued a news release warning its distributors not to associate any Amway products with COVID-19.
“Governmental agencies and consumer protection groups are aggressively scrutinizing companies that may be seen as attempting to profit from the current crisis,” the release read, adding that Amway could avoid scrutiny by not making false claims.
“Let’s be especially clear about what our products do — and what they don’t,” the release concluded.
But in phone conversations, text message exchanges and at an arranged meeting, Sennaike repeatedly claimed that the product could protect someone from getting COVID-19.
“It will do it, will add value, I’m very much certain,” he told the Global crew recording the sales presentation.
When notified about the claim, an Amway spokesperson said the company was “distressed,” adding it “does not support the claim.
“Such claims are strictly prohibited by Amway,” said Beth Dornan, on behalf of Amway, based in Ada, Mich.
“The Atmosphere Air Purifier system is not an appropriate method of protection against viruses such as COVID-19,” Dornan wrote in an email statement.
“An Amway Independent Business Owner making such claims is subject to action by the company up to and including termination of their Amway business,” she added.
But when confronted by Global News about his marketing statements, Sennaike denied he did anything wrong.
“I’m not convincing people, it’s a preventative measure,” he said, after realizing he was now on camera.
“I’m really disappointed you’re doing this. This is against my human rights,” he said, as he walked out the hotel and into the parking lot.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
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