On August 29, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced in a press release that it had sent warning letters to 14 window manufacturers and one manufacturer of window glass. The letters state that the FTC had reviewed the advertising claims on the companies’ websites and found them to be similar to claims made by five companies that were subject to an FTC enforcement action in February of this year.
In the February enforcement action, which attracted significant attention for its treatment of so-called “upto” claims, the FTC alleged that the companies made exaggerated and unsubstantiated claims about the energy efficiency of the windows they marketed and the amount of money consumers could expect to save by installing the windows.
In July, the FTC released a consumer study it commissioned during the enforcement action to test consumer perceptions of "up-to" claims. In the press release announcing the release of the study, the FTC stated, “[the report] reinforces the FTC’s view that advertisers using [up-to] claims should be able to substantiate that consumers are likely to achieve the maximum results promised under normal circumstances."
The August letters recommend that the recipients review their marketing materials with the following points in mind.
- Energy-savings claims must be backed by scientific evidence.
- The type of savings consumers can expect must be clearly stated.
- “Up-to” claims must not be deceptive.
- Avoid deception when selecting home characteristics for modeling.
- Assumptions must be clearly and prominently disclosed.
- Exercise care in using testimonials or case studies.
- Manufacturers may be liable for misleading or unsubstantiated claims made to dealers or retailers,
- as well as deceptive claims made directly to consumers.
The FTC’s press release stated that the warning letters were part of its ongoing efforts to ensure that advertisers' environmental claims are truthful and properly substantiated. While these letters target only marketers making energy-savings claims, the FTC's reasoning applies to all "up-to" claims.
Click here to read the FTC’s press release and view copies of the warning letters.