It looks like the time has come to pay the piper for over the top promises of savings from replacement windows. Last week the Federal Trade Commission settled with five window companies that have been making exagerated and unsubstantiated claims of energy savings regarding their products. According to Window & Door, "the cases are part of a broad FTC effort to ensure that environmental marketing is truthful and based on solid scientific evidence, government officials state."
David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said, “Energy efficiency and cost savings are major factors for many consumers buying replacement windows...The FTC is committed to making sure that the information consumers get is accurate and that marketers can back up the claims they make.”
The five companies in the settlement are Gorell Enterprises, Long Fence & Home, Serious Energy, THV Holdings and Winchester Industries. Among the boasts were promises of 40 to 50 percent energy savings, 8 year payback periods, many of which came with a money back guarantee.
In the FTC's press release announcing the settlement, specific terms were laid out, such as
Part I of the proposed settlements prohibits each company from claiming:
- that consumers who replace their current windows with those of the company will achieve up to, or a specified amount or percentage of energy savings, or a reduction in their heating or cooling costs; or
- that the company guarantees or pledges that consumers who replace their windows with the company's windows will achieve such energy savings;
unless the claim is non-misleading and when the company makes the claim, it has competent and reliable scientific evidence to substantiate that all or almost all consumers are likely to achieve the maximum savings claimed.
In addition, if the company claims or guarantees that consumers will achieve specific energy savings or reduced heating or cooling costs under certain circumstances (for example, by replacing a window made of a certain material in a specific region of the country), it must clearly and prominently disclose those circumstances near where the claim or guarantee is made. The company also must be able to substantiate that all or almost all consumers are likely to see the maximum savings claimed under those circumstances.
Part II of the proposed settlements prohibits each company from making claims:
- that a specific number or percentage of consumers who replace their windows with the company's will achieve energy savings or reduced heating or cooling costs; or
- about energy consumption, energy costs, heating and cooling costs, or other insulating properties or energy-related efficacy;
unless the representation is non-misleading and is substantiated by reliable scientific evidence.
In conjunction with the settlement, the FTC issued a Shopping for Windows publication for consumers. It is designed to provide information that homeowners should take into account when considering replacement windows, including how to decipher NFRC window stickers.
- The FTC's press release of the settlement can be found here.
- Door & Window Manufacturer Magazine's write-up regarding the settlement can be found here.