BuzzOff reaches settlement over product claims

BuzzOff settles with Massachusetts.BuzzOff, a distributor of mosquito-repellent misting devices, and its Massachusetts dealer have agreed to resolve charges that they violated state consumer protection laws by misrepresenting the safety and effectiveness of their product, Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office recently announced.

The settlement requires distributor BuzzOFF Mosquito LLC of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and dealer BuzzOFF of Central Massachusetts LLC, to inform potential customers of their pesticide misting system about safer, non-chemical alternatives. The companies also agreed to post signs notifying neighbors and passersby wherever a BuzzOff misting system is in use.

"Homeowners should have the facts to make informed decisions about the potential dangers of spraying pesticides in their yards," Attorney General Coakley said in a statement. "Through this action, the companies will take steps to protect consumers and give proper warnings of the potential risks of their products."

Mosquito misting systems automatically spray pesticides in a given area, while generally accepted pest control practices focus on prevention by eliminating potential mosquito breeding sites (such as flower pots and bird baths) and minimizing reliance on potentially risky chemicals.

While the insecticide used in BuzzOff misting systems is considered relatively safe, the Attorney general's office noted, studies point to potentially serious neurological and oncological risks as well. Since these chemicals are inherently toxic, their application needs to be carefully controlled.

After reviewing BuzzOFF's marketing materials, including brochures, print and internet advertisements, and customer contracts, the Attorney General's Office concluded they may have misrepresented the safety and efficacy of the mosquito misting systems.

For example, one of the ads inaccurately claimed that the BuzzOFF system has been "EPA Approved," even though the EPA does not in fact issue approvals for pesticides. Rather, the EPA registers chemicals for particular uses, which include various labeling and other requirements.

The settlement requires the companies to minimize possible health risks associated with BuzzOff misting systems. These steps include advising consumers about non-chemical pest control alternatives, and ceasing to claim that the BuzzOFF mosquito misting system and the pesticides used in the system are "safe," "non-toxic," and aren't harmful to humans, pets and the environment. The companies have also agreed to inform consumers that BuzzOff misters should not be used around children or pets.

Both companies have agreed to pay Massachusetts a $5,000 fine, but the dealer's fine may be reduced to $500 if it complies with the terms of the settlement -- if the fails to comply with the settlement, the distributor may terminate the dealership.

"With mosquito season at its peak, it's important that the public is educated about the proper use and effects of using pesticides and alternative preventive pest control methods," said Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner Scott Soares in a statement. "We appreciate the work by Attorney General Coakley to inform and protect the public from the risks associated with this pesticide."
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