The Washington Attorney General’s office recently settled with Great Lakes Window over allegations that the company made unsubstantiated energy efficiency claims. In addition to paying $50,000 in refunds for qualifying homeowners, Ohio-based Great Lakes agreed not to engage in certain marketing practices.
The Washington AG filed a complaint against the company, which sells replacement windows to retail window companies nationwide, as well as a local Washington company, Penguin Windows, with which it settled earlier this year. From 2004 to 2009, Great Lakes ran a “40% Energy Savings Pledge” campaign that claimed consumers would save at least 40% in energy costs the first year by purchasing new doors and windows, or be paid the difference, subject to a number of material terms and conditions.
The complaint alleged that the claim was false, a violation of the state’s consumer protection law.
The AG’s office said that the energy savings realized varied based on a number of different factors, including the type, size, and location of the replaced windows; the insulation of the home; the condition of the home’s heating and cooling systems; and the climate at the home’s location. To estimate the energy savings, a whole-home energy audit would need to be performed, the AG’s office said.
“As a result, the actual energy savings that homeowners who qualified for the Pledge typically obtained was in fact far less than the 40% savings the Pledge promised,” according to the complaint.
Under the terms of the settlement, Great Lakes did not admit to wrongdoing. The AG’s office agreed to suspend $25,000 in civil penalties, although the company will pay $10,000 in attorneys’ fees and legal costs, as well as $50,000 to consumers. Great Lakes also agreed not to engage in false and deceptive advertising, and to review and respond to written customer complaints about its energy efficiency claims and keep records of those complaints for four years.
To read the complaint in State v. Great Lakes Window, Inc., click here.
To read the settlement agreement, click here.
Why it matters: Advertisers must have support for all claims, even those with multiple, complicated factors affecting the outcome – such as a home energy audit.