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Razer to pay out over $1 million in refunds over its misleading (and hideous) Zephyr face mask

US regulator says no, that is not an N95 respirator after all

A man and woman modelling the Razer Zephyr face mask,
Image credit: Razer

Razer, makers of various pretty good gaming peripherals and one deeply questionable face mask, have been slapped with a $1.1 million fine by US regulators after said mask was determined to have misled buyers over the amount of protection it afforded. Kotaku reports that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) took issue with Razer’s claim that the Zephyr, an RGB monstrosity released during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, could act as a medical-grade N95 respirator – it could not – and will allocate $1 million of that fine towards refunds for fooled, if colourfully illuminated, buyers.

As early as the 2021 press release announcing it, with the initial name of Project Hazel, Razer had indeed suggested that the Zephyr would feature "N95 medical-grade respirator protection," with much of the press – including, hands up, us – relaying the claim. However, as various users and media discovered, the mask’s filters were not actually certified to the N95 standard (which is broadly equivalent to the FFP2 standard here in Europe). In fact, Razer never even submitted the design to the federal agencies that could grant N95 certification through testing.

A few years later, Razer have long removed any mention of N95 filtering from its Zephyr marketing and packaging, but that was evidently too little, too late for the FTC. In yesterday's statement, the regulator said that Razer "falsely marketed" and "misrepresented" the protection it provided, including from COVID, and they'd be subject to a $100,000 civil penalty on top of the money being claimed for refunds.

I’m not saying this as some kind of smug victory lap – there is a non-zero chance that people got sick and/or made others sick because they believed the Zephyr was more effective than it was – but my word, I remember hating this thing. I hated how it looked, I hated how much more expensive it was than a regular N95 medical mask, I hated how many people wrote previews and posted photos from demo events wearing it like it was a real product to be treated credulously, and not as a bizarre joke that made you look like bad fanart of a Metal Gear Rising boss. I’d rather it never existed in the first place, though if it’s going to have an end, the sole crumb of comfort to be had in this story is surely that it’s an ignominious one.

Update 01/05: Razer have released a statement denying any malicious intentions, though they won't be formally challenging the FTC in response:

"We disagree with the FTC’s allegations and did not admit to any wrongdoing as part of the settlement. 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. Razer cares deeply about our community and is always looking to deliver technology in new and relevant ways.

"The Razer Zephyr was conceived to offer a different and innovative face covering option for the community. The FTC’s claims against Razer concerned limited portions of some of the statements relating to the Zephyr. More than two years ago, Razer proactively notified customers that the Zephyr was not a N95 mask, stopped sales, and refunded customers."

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