Taser International Changes Its Marketing Language in Wake of Criticisms and Probes

This story ran on September 28, 2005 in Forbes Magazine:
Taser International Inc. has voluntarily changed some of its broad safety claims and limited its use of the word “non-lethal” in an effort to appease Arizona officials concerned about possibly misleading marketing, officials said Wednesday.
The move by the nation’s largest maker of stun guns comes as the Securities and Exchange Commission investigates the company and as the Arizona Attorney General’s Office conducts its own inquiry into safety claims.
On Tuesday, Taser said the SEC had stepped up an informal inquiry and was conducting an expanded official investigation of claims Taser has made about safety studies; an end-of-year sale analysts have questioned because it appeared to inflate sales to meet annual projections; and the possibility that outsiders acquired internal company information to manipulate the stock price.
In January, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard said his office was probing claims Taser has made about safety studies on its products.
Taser President Tom Smith said company officials met with the Attorney General’s Office several times since January and have made changes to the way they characterize the weapon’s safety to consumers.
According to Taser and the Attorney General’s Office, the stun gun maker submitted a list of language changes the company has already made, including an 18-point “product warning.”
Among the changes, Taser explains that it uses the term non-lethal as defined by the Department of Defense – which doesn’t mean the weapon can’t cause death, but that it’s not intended to be fatal.
Other changes include substituting the phrase “leave no lasting after effects” to “are more effective and safer than other use-of-force options.”
Taser began marketing police stun guns in 1998 as a way to subdue combative people in high-risk situations. Now, more than 8,000 law enforcement agencies and military installations use them worldwide.
But critics say the stun guns have been used too liberally by police and have contributed to scores of deaths. Amnesty International has compiled a list of more than 100 people the group says have died after being shocked in scuffles with lawmen.
Taser maintains that no deaths have been directly caused by the weapon alone.