May 6, 2004

The National Spa & Pool Institute has recently become aware of class action litigation involving electric air compressors that underscores the need for accurate product labeling.1

The plaintiffs in this litigation were purchasers of certain electric air compressors manufactured, imported, licensed or distributed by the following defendants: Campbell Hausfeld, Devilbiss Air Power Co., Ingersoll-Rand Co., and Coleman Powermate, Inc. These companies identified on labels for their respective air compressors a horsepower other than continuous running horsepower. The plaintiffs alleged that defendants labeled, promoted and sold consumer air compressors with electric motors as having higher horsepower motors than they in fact contained.

The plaintiffs further alleged that the defendants knew that these air compressors actually contained smaller electric motors and nonetheless falsely labeled and promoted the higher inaccurate horsepower, in violation of the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act of Illinois, and comparable laws of other states. Plaintiffs sought damages and an order of the court prohibiting the labeling of peak horsepower in the future.

While the defendant companies denied the allegations and any wrongdoing or liability to the plaintiffs, they concluded that a settlement is desirable to avoid the time, risks and expense of defending protracted litigation. As part of their respective settlements with the plaintiffs, the defendant companies have all agreed to stop labeling their future consumer air compressors with electric motors, intended for use on a nominal 120-volt circuit, with peak horsepower ratings. The terms of the various settlements are subject to court approval.

As an example of what was required to reach settlement, Campbell Hausfeld has agreed to change the marketing, packaging, sales and labeling of all of its future consumer air compressors so that any reference to horsepower complies with one of two methods:

Method I: Requires that any reference to motor horsepower will be to the output power at the shaft of the electric motor that can be sustained continuously without exceeding the motor rated operating conditions of voltage, frequency, amp draw and temperature rise at the test voltage. In addition to specifying a specific method of determining the output power, IEEE 114, references to “peak” horsepower,” “max developed” horsepower, “max kinetic” horsepower or “breakdown torque” horsepower are not to be used. Other technical requirements are specified under this method.

Method II: Requires that any reference to compressor input power will be as the shaft horsepower of the compressor pump when operated at the highest load condition between the cut in and cut out settings of the pressure switch or pressure control device. Shaft horsepower is to be determined by a test conducted in accordance to ISO 1217 with certain additional requirements. Once again, references to “peak” horsepower, “max developed” horsepower, “max kinetic” horsepower or “breakdown torque” horsepower cannot be used.

As stated above, this litigation underscores the importance of accurate product specifications with respect to pumps and all other components used in the manufacture of hot tubs.

Most states, i f not all, have consumer protection statutes similar to the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, prohibiting misrepresentations in, and/or deceptive, advertising. The Federal Trade Commission has authority in this area as well.

Accordingly, all NSPI members are cautioned to exercise care to ensure that product specifications are not in any way misleading to consumers.

Thank you for your attention to this matter, and my best for a successful season.



Jack Cergol
Chief Staff Executive
National Spa and Pool Institute

1 Ellerbrake v. Campbell Hausfeld, DeVilbiss Air Power Co., Ingersoll-Rand Co. and Coleman Powermate, Inc. Cause No. 01-L-540, in the Circuit Court in St. Clair County, Illinois.