Sherwin-Williams and PPG Settle FTC Charges That They Misled Consumers Regarding PaintsOctober 29th, 2012 by DWM Magazine
The Federal Trade Commission is once again cracking down on companies that make misleading green claims. Two of the nation’s paint companies, The Sherwin-Williams Company and PPG Architectural Finishes Inc., have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges that they misled consumers to believe that some of their paints are free of potentially harmful chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
The two companies agreed to settlements with the FTC requiring them to stop making the allegedly deceptive claim that their Dutch Boy Refresh and Pure Performance interior paints, respectively, contain “zero” volatile organic compounds. According to the agency, while this may be true for the uncolored “base” paints, it is not true for tinted paint, which typically has much higher levels of the compounds, and which consumers usually buy.
“Environmental claims, like the VOC-free claims in this case, are very difficult, if not impossible, for consumers to confirm,” said David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “That’s why it’s so important for the FTC to give clear guidance to marketers, like the Commission’s recently revised Green Guides, and to police the market to ensure that consumers actually get what they pay for.”
The FTC’s administrative complaints against Sherwin-Williams and PPG charge the companies with violating the FTC Act by making false and unsubstantiated claims that that their paints contain “zero VOCs” after tinting, according to the FTC announcement.
The proposed consent orders settling the FTC’s charges are the same for both Sherwin-Williams and PPG. First, they prohibit the companies from claiming that their paints contain “zero VOCs,” unless, after tinting, they have a VOC level of zero grams per liter, or the companies have competent and reliable scientific evidence that the paint contains no more than trace levels of VOCs. The definition of “trace” comes from the “trace amount” test included in the FTC’s recently released updated Green Guides for environmental marketing claims, the agency says.