“I feel cheated. I bought a mask that was sold as FFP2 and it turns out that neither is it nor the material you use is what they promised. It is misleading advertising“This is how Roberto Martín explains his experience to this newspaper when reserving one of the masks designed and manufactured by the Valencian startup Closca. This firm, which had made a name for itself internationally in the design world for its award-winning bicycle helmet, had tried in recent weeks to manufacture something totally different: a reusable face mask and ‘cute’ design. “It incorporates filters that achieve the same protection as FFP2”, he assured the company website and its maximum person in charge a few weeks ago. Now, the thousands of customers who paid for one have just discovered that this is not the case.
“Become a health hero“The Closca Mask campaign, running for several weeks, read. In mid-April the project was announced in style, with mentions in national media and many potential clients showing their interest from the start. It was not for less.An attractive FFP2 mask, whose filters can be washed and reused and signed by one of the most respected design startups in the country? It was also a “non-profit” project, assured the company. “We do not want to do business in times of crisis. For each purchase we will donate 5 sanitary masks to professionals and risk groups.” The idea was promising and inspired confidence. Just what consumers were looking for.
The cold water jug arrived last Friday, May 8, a few days after shipping began. After 40,000 units sold, Closca issued a statement to all customers announcing that the products were already available, but without explaining the changes that had occurred. And they were substantial modifications. Instead of a rigid, compact frame, the masks were now perforated fabric “to increase breathability.” Instead of the promised FFP2 filters, the ones it incorporated were surgical. In other words: you were paying 20 euros for six surgical masks (the fabric plus 6 filters) that in any pharmacy would cost you € 5.76. The storm did not wait.
I’m sorry, but what a small garden you have entered selling a product that has NOTHING to do with what was promised in the reserve. And without any email communication of this change. I hope you will return the mask paste and the pile of filters that I asked for as an extra.
– Alberto Riol / 🏳️🌈 (@xmooth) May 9, 2020
Shit punctured on a stick, neither ffp2 nor anything, the same as if you cover yourself with a scarf.
– 🐷EL CHANCHO VOLADOR🇺🇾🇪🇦 (@ Charrualeo41) May 9, 2020
I travel a lot to Korea, there are giant factories dedicated to mask fashion. You did not invent the wheel, I paid for a design and quality product. I already make donations without expecting anything in return.
– Boris (at home 🏠) (@BorisXD) May 9, 2020
Toni is one of hundreds of clients who have decided to ask for a refund and, in fact, has already received it. “I don’t think there was bad faith, but a problem of communicating things. I’m not saying it’s a bad product either, but it’s not what I bought. I bought them thinking they were FFP2, with interchangeable filters. And it turns out that they are not, “he explains to this newspaper. Toni says that he does not know the reason why they have decided to change the filters.” The shit of communication is this, not to notify the buyers, “he adds.” Perhaps they had problems to acquire them, which is a common thing these days. And instead of canceling the project, they have looked for alternatives. The mistake is communication, but I don’t think it’s a scam. ”
Consulted by this newspaper, the founder and CEO of Closca, Carlos Ferrando, does not hide. “We absolutely did not expect to have screwed up like this. But we have put it in and now we are working to clarify it. I am not an expert in masks, I am an expert in making good and emotional designs“adds this Valencian, who attributes the controversy to a cluster of errors in communication and inexperience working with these products. What exactly happened?
“When we started moving the project, we asked our ‘partners’ in China. They offered us FFP2-certified filters and even referred us to a European laboratory to verify that this was the case. When we verified it and understood that it was the best that we could get, we said to go for it, “he says. The problem is that in order for them to be considered in Europe they have to isolate the face as well. Ferrando insists that they never spoke of an FFP2 mask but of “filters coming from those masks” and recalls that the legal notice included on the purchase page warned that it was not an individual protective equipment (PPE). However, both on the company’s website until a few days ago and in its communication to clients and the media, Closca assured that the filters were FFP2, when they ended up being surgical, a communication and planning error that ended up making the customers who were purchasing FFP2 approved masks.
Ferrando assures that when seeing the problems that certain regional governments also experienced that they had to remove masks due to the same mess that they did not meet the established standards, They decided to look for another provider, in this case Spanish. They found a Valencian manufacturer, which supplies materials to the Generalitat, which has an antibacterial filtration level of 98%, certified by the ITEX laboratory, which is who they are currently working with.
This supplier provided him with filters of ‘washable’ material (up to 5 occasions), he assures, unlike the previous ones, that they were disposable. “Last Friday we sent out a newsletter. We focused on the positive. And we ran into this controversy that we did not expect.” Ferrando remembers that all the net benefit of the project has been and will be destined to donations of sanitary material (they have already provided 80,000 masks). “This project has never had the intention of profiting,” he explains. “Instead of standing and doing an ERTE we have put the team to work on this,” he adds. “What the hell am I going to try to get out of a drama like this? If this had been the case, it would not have changed to the filters made in Spain, which are 25% more expensive than the ones we were going to bring from China. ”
On the possibility of washing the filters up to 5 times, however, consulted specialists also show their doubts. “A washing filter? I have never seen it, really. One of the reasons that surgical masks are single-use or FFP2s should not be worn more than 8 hours without changing them is because moisture is created by breathing and that moisture causes less filtering. Unless it is fabric, which in this case is not, I would not recommend washing the surgical filters, “explains Gema del Caño, a pharmacist and specialist in biotechnology and food safety.
The other issue that has also raised suspicions among buyers has been the design change. Ferrando explains that it is because they wanted to make a more “wearable” and more usable product, but that it differs from what was seen in the recreations when they launched the pre-purchase. “Maybe we should have specified better and insisted that it was a ‘render’. It is the fourth campaign of this type that we have launched pre-purchase, previously we have done so with ‘crowdfunding’ and there was no problem. There have been communication errors “he concludes, remembering that anyone who wants the refund will have it without any problem. “Today we have canceled about 1% of orders [unas 400 personas]. But trolls and upset customers make more noise than those who are not. ”