The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has warned 14 window manufacturers and one window glass manufacturer that they may be making unsupported energy savings claims for replacement windows. This is not the first time the FTC and window companies have been in the news in recent months. Earlier this year, five window companies settled with the FTC over deceptive energy efficiency and cost claims.  A statement issued by the FTC says the warning letters “are part of an FTC effort to ensure that environmental marketing is truthful and based on solid scientific evidence.” Some of those companies talked to DWM magazine today to offer their views on the warnings.

The letters were sent to glass manufacturer Cardinal Glass Industries and window manufacturers Acadia Windows & Doors Inc., Nationwide Window & Siding Corp., Newpro, Pace Window & Door Corp., Pal Windows, Ringer Windows, Sierra Pacific Windows, SureGuard Windows, SwissShade & Security Inc., Thompson Creek Window Company, Value Windows & Doors, Vytex Windows, Weather Shield (and its glassmaking component), and West Window Corp.

Each letter states that the FTC reviewed the company’s website and found claims similar to those challenged in administrative complaints the FTC filed earlier this year against those five window companies. The warning letters highlight claims that consumers will save more than 30 percent on their energy or heating and cooling bills by installing replacement windows.

“The FTC has asked that we review our heating and cooling savings claims,” says Bowie Neumayer, vice president of sales and marketing for Cardinal IG. “Our data was generated from nine test houses in three regions. We are communicating with the FTC and expect to have this cleared up.”

Greg Ringer, president, Ringer Windows, based in Pflugerville, Texas, disagrees with the FTC’s decision, but took down the language the FTC cited, nonetheless.

“We completely disagreed with what they said as we think we properly qualified the claims on our website but that wasn’t good enough [for the FTC],” he says. “We decided it wasn’t worth fighting the federal government so we voluntarily took everything down they didn’t like.”

He adds that the FTC’s reasoning is that many consumers may not look at the disclaimers.

“It’s not an integral part of our strategy for selling windows anyway so we decided to take it down instead of fighting,” adds Ringer. “If that was our whole selling strategy maybe it would have been different but it’s not. We know on average what clients tell us they save.”

Harry Fahl, sales and marketing representative, Acadia Windows and Doors, in Baltimore, Md., also said he removed the statements from the website after receiving the FTC letter.

“We received a warning from the FTC about a single line comment on our website regarding energy savings our clients were achieving. The statement was removed,” he says.

The same goes for West Window based in Martinsville, Va., says its president Don Hodges, who says the letter from the FTC was a surprise. The item in question was a statement included in a brochure produced by Cardinal that was on West Window’s website.

 “The literature said that energy bills could be reduced by one third. We have taken if off and are moving on,” says Hodges.  “We are a Cardinal customer and they are an excellent supplier.”

“We support any agency that is investigating industry claims to be fair and accurate when presenting to a consumer,” adds Steven Abramson, president of New York-based Pace Windows.

The FTC letters also state that the commission has made no determination whether the companies are violating the law, but urge the recipients to review their marketing materials and keep in mind that they must:

• Back energy-saving claims with scientific evidence;

• Be specific about the type of savings consumers can expect;

• Avoid deception when making “up-to” claims;

• Avoid deception when selecting home characteristics for modeling;

• Clearly and prominently disclose any assumptions;

• Exercise care in using testimonials or “case studies;” and

• Realize they may be liable for misleading or unsubstantiated claims made to dealers or retailers, in addition to claims made directly to consumers.

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