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Sunbeam Portable Air Conditioners: Mired in Legal Trouble as of late 2011

As of late 2011, if you look on the net, you won’t find a new Sunbeam portable air conditioner for sale (and very few used as well). The sites that do list them in their catalog will show “out of stock.” The reason for this has to do with how the air conditioner (and other industries) work in the U.S.

The first thing that happens is that companies are bought and sold fairly frequently. This happened when Sunbeam went bankrupt, reemerged as American Household, Inc. in 2002 and was then purchased in 2004 by Jarden Consumer Solutions.1 That’s the first layer of fog.

Sunbeam Products

The second confusing layer is that brands are commonly licensed out to other companies. This is because a brand name has a value all its own and consumers don’t really look past the logo or name on a product to see who is actually making it. So, we have Jarden Consumer Solutions (JCS) now owing the Sunbeam name, but the license to manufacture under the name is held by Petters Group – a notorious “brand name vampire.”2

Add in a Ponzi scheme!
All would have been fine and normal, except the CEO and principal behind the company, Tom Petters, was convicted in 2009 of a $3.65 billion dollar Ponzi scheme. This threw his company instantly into bankruptcy.3

Of course, one of the assets in dispute for the bankruptcy is the Sunbeam naming rights for portable air conditioners. Not all products are affected though. Only those licensed to Petters. This is why you will find fans or toasters with the Sunbeam name, but not portable ACs.

sunbeam portable air conditionerWarranty work up in the air
So what happens when you try to get warrantee work done on a Sunbeam portable air conditioner or want to find out more? Looking at the JHC website, you’ll see the Sunbeam logo.4 That looks like a good place to start. Until you are directed to the legal notice here.5 This page surfaces only if you follow the links to the Sunbeam site and then to the home and health section and then click air conditioners.

In effect, the legal notice informs consumers that JHC didn’t own the Sunbeam brand for certain products licensed to Petters Group and that Jarden isn’t responsible for any repairs, complaints or lawsuits related to those products.

It is unknown at this time who will take up the brand and if they will sell portable air conditioners going forward.

ACboy’s advice here: If you can find a Sunbeam portable air conditioner, it may be cheaper, but go in knowing that you probably won’t get warranty work done if it breaks.


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