The Federal Trade Commission settled with Tested Green and its owner over claims that the company advertised, marketed, and sold phony environmental certifications via its Web site and mass e-mails to consumers.
Tested Green claimed it was the “nation’s leading certification program with over 45,000 certifications in the U.S.” but actually failed to test any of the companies it provided with an environmental certification, the FTC alleged.
Instead, for either $189.95 or $549.95 (for a “Rapid” or “Pro” certification), the company would issue a certificate to anyone, the FTC said.
The FTC alleged that while the Tested Green Web site said that certification seekers must answer a series of green-related questions and possibly submit to a site visit to verify their green practices, applicants were merely required to provide a name and address, and pay for the certificate.
In fact, 129 consumers who applied for and paid the designated amounts were provided with a Tested Green logo and a link to a “certification verification page” that they could use to advertise a “certified” status.
The company cited endorsements from two environmental groups, the National Green Business Association and the National Association of Government Contractors, but both “independent organizations” were in fact owned and operated by Jeremy Ryan Claeys, the owner of Tested Green, the FTC said.
Under the terms of the settlement, both Claeys and Tested Green are barred from future misrepresentations about certifications or evaluations of environmental attributes, specifically whether an outside party has evaluated a product, service, package or program based on its environmental attributes; or whether they or a third party has the expertise to evaluate the environmental benefits or attributes of a product, service, package, or program.
To read the complaint in In the Matter of Nonprofit Management LLC, click here.
To read the consent order, click here.
Why it matters: Environmental claims remain high on the FTC’s radar, and the agency has vowed to protect consumers who rely on earth-friendly claims. “It’s really tough for most people to know whether green or environmental claims are credible,” said David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a statement about the Tested Green settlement. “Legitimate seals and certifications are a useful tool that can help consumers choose where to place their trust and how to spend their money. The FTC will continue to weed out deceptive seals and certifications like the one in this case.” With the release of proposed revisions to the FTC’s Green Guides, scrutiny of environmental claims will continue.