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Sharper Image to give merchandise vouchers to settle purifier suit

SAN FRANCISCO - Sharper Image Corp. has agreed to discount its high-tech gadgets by more than $60 million and make several other concessions to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging the specialty retailer misled customers about the effectiveness of its air purifiers.

Under the proposed settlement disclosed Friday in a regulatory filing, Sharper Image will offer $19 merchandise credits to each of the roughly 3.2 million consumers who have bought one of its ''Ionic Breeze'' purifiers since May 6, 1999.

The credits can be applied toward the purchase of other Sharper Image-branded products for a year after they're issued.

The same group of consumers also will be able to buy a grill attachment designed for the Ionic Breeze for $7. Although Sharper Image didn't quantify how much customers could save under this offer, several different types of them were listed Friday for $39.95 on the company's Web site.

Besides offering those discounts, Sharper Image agreed to tone down its advertising claims about the power of the Ionic Breeze and pay up to $1.875 million in fees to the lawyers who filed the suit on behalf of Manual Figueroa in a Miami federal court.

Figueroa said he paid several hundred dollars for an Ionic Breeze to help remove dust, pollen and other nettlesome particles from the air, only to discover the device didn't work as advertised.

Sharper Image denied the allegations, citing scientific studies validating the Ionic Breeze's effectiveness. Nevertheless, management ''has concluded that it is in the best interest of Sharper Image, its shareholders and its customers to settle this class action,'' according to court papers.

The ultimate cost of the settlement will hinge on how many of the eligible customer redeem the merchandise vouchers, Sharper Image said in Securities and Exchange Commission documents.