The Federal Trade Commission filed suit against light bulb manufacturer Lights of America and the company’s principals alleging that they are misleading consumers by exaggerating the light output and life expectancy of Light-Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs on product packaging and brochures.

The FTC filed its deceptive advertising complaint in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, claiming that since 2008, the company overstated the features of its LED bulbs on both product packaging and brochures, and misled consumers about the brightness of its LED bulbs as compared to traditional incandescent bulbs.

LED bulbs, although typically higher-priced, also last longer than incandescent and compact fluorescent bulbs, and they can save consumers on energy costs over a period of time, according to the FTC.

Lights of America’s LED bulbs produced “significantly” less light (measured in lumens) than it claimed, however, according to the complaint. The FTC said that the company promoted one of its bulbs as producing 90 lumens of light output when tests showed it produced only 43 lumens.

According to the FTC, Lights of America also deceptively compared the brightness of its LED bulbs with incandescent bulbs. The complaint used the example of an LED lantern bulb that the company said could replace a 40-watt incandescent bulb, which typically produces about 400 lumens, when the Lights of America LED bulb only produced 74 lumens.

Finally, the agency claims that Lights of America’s LED bulbs failed to last as long as the company claimed. Independent testing showed that an LED-recessed bulb the company claimed would last 30,000 hours lost 80% of its light output after 1,000 hours.

The complaint seeks both injunctive relief and compensation for consumers.

To read the complaint in FTC v. Lights of America, Inc., click here.

Why it matters: The complaint is a reminder to companies making performance claims that their advertising must be supported with the appropriate testing. Like the Seventh Generation matter above, advertising that has a “green” or energy claim is likely to attract greater scrutiny by regulators as companies seek to gain consumer attention.