I had occasion recently to review the websites of more than three hundred window and door manufacturers. I was surprised by the number of residential window manufacturers’ websites that still contain references, right on the home page, to the tax credit. They talk about consumers getting a $1,500 tax credit and the benefits of energy-efficient windows. The only problem, as anyone reading this blog surely knows, is that the tax credit expired December 31, 2010.

At first, I thought this might be an oversight. As I came across more sites that still referred to the tax credit, though, I had to assume that it was an intentional part of their marketing strategy. If that’s the case, I would also assume those companies are ready, if asked by a customer, to explain that the credit has expired and they meant to take down that reference. Maybe they plan to offer a discount to offset part of the tax credit.

However, what happens if a consumer sees that tax credit reference and buys the windows without ever mentioning their assumption that they’re getting that tax credit? If that is the case, they won’t realize there is a problem until spring 2012 when they prepare their taxes. They’ll realize that the tax forms no longer include a spot to enter qualifying purchases to get the tax credit. It won’t even matter if they didn’t print the company’s website when they bought the windows. The consumer could easily use google’s cache function to pull up the look of the website as of the day they purchased their windows.

They’ll contact the dealer that sold them the windows, who will pass that hot potato on to the manufacturer in a blink. At that point, the manufacturer’s phone will ring with the consumer asking what they plan to do to make them whole on the credit they believed they were getting.

No matter how you interpret these ongoing references to the tax credit, it’s clear that there is some liability created by leaving that message on a website viewed by the public. With several companies in the industry having run into trouble with unsubstantiated energy efficiency claims, we would recommend taking down all of the tax credit references. There are safer and more effective ways to promote energy-efficient products.

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