July 3rd, 2012
FTC in the News Again
Several years ago those in the window industry didn’t hear the acronym FTC nearly as much as they do now. But in recent years, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been cracking down on many industries, ours included, and this acronym has become a big part of our industry—like it or not.
It started a few years ago when the commission’s Guide to Environmental Marketing Claims, started to get some more publicity. It was an eye opener for many in the industry. When DWM wrote a cover story on the subject in October 2008, some of the feedback we heard was that people had no idea this guidance existed. We heard from one company who started to use the guide as a blueprint when making claims in ads, websites and the like. When DWM magazine held its inaugural Fenestration Day event in 2010, Steven Baker of the FTC even came to talk to the door and window attendees about the importance of being careful when making green claims.
The biggest news came earlier this year when the FTC settled with five window companies regarding deceptive energy efficiency and cost claims. According to the FTC, the marketing materials for Serious Materials have included claims such as, “Guaranteed to reduce your heating and cooling use by up to 49 percent.”
Well that “up to” claim is what is making news today. The Federal Trade Commission released an FTC-commissioned study indicating that when marketers use the phrase “up to” in claims about their products, many consumers are likely to believe that they will achieve the maximum “up to” results. The study describes what a test group of consumers thought about ads for replacement home windows that purportedly would provide “up to 47 percent” savings in energy costs.
The report summarizes the results of a test conducted in conjunction with investigations of those five companies and the hope is that companies base their marketing claims on scientific evidence.
What are your thoughts? Do you think the consumer should be able to figure out on his own that up to 45 percent could really mean 20 percent, and that it depends on a variety of factors? That the FTC shouldn’t have to get involved? I hope to hear from a lot of you as I know when we have run these stories in the past there were numerous comments on our website.
One such comment stated, “There is no standard for BS. Anyone that has a thread of common sense knows that you cannot predict energy savings until you know what and how the energy is being lost. Additionally, saving 40 percent or anywhere around that number, by replacing windows is beyond reason, especially for someone in the industry.”
Do you agree with this window company owner?
Whatever you believe, the FTC report once again tells us the importance of watching what we say, backing it up and not over exaggerating claims.