Are You Confident in Your Claims?

Christina Lewellen
February 28, 2012
THE TALK...
Last week's announcement from the FTC that it has reached a settlement with several window companies regarding their claims about the energy efficiency savings provided by their products does not come as a complete shock.  Ever since the Washington State attorney general's crackdown on window dealers, industry lawyers have been warning other window and door companies to take a close look at their current advertising claims to make sure they're not inviting similar legal challenges.
With this settlement, I'm interested to know if you're concerned about your company’s marketing claims, or even those you see elsewhere. I’ll keep your feedback completely anonymous, of course, but please share with me if you’re considering revising the claims you make when you go to market. Can you really prove that your products provide a certain percentage off of utility bills? Do you guarantee that new windows will lower heating and/or cooling costs or you’ll refund the difference to the buyer? These statements could get you in trouble, if the recent settlement indicates where legal challenges are trending.
This is an important topic in our industry, and one we will continue to explore. Please send me an email or post a comment below to share your thoughts. How will this impact your business? What can we safely say to consumers about potential energy savings?
 

Survey Results for 03/1/2012:

 

Will the FTC settlements impact your company's marketing and advertising?

No, we think everything we say is okay.

  

 

59%

Yes, we will have to take some claims out.

  

 

28%

I think we're okay, but we'll probably take another look at everything.

  

 

9%

No, but we've already made changes.

  

 

4%

 

Survey results suggest most window and door companies are comfortable with their messages on energy savings, although the FTC announcement will get many to take another look.  A significant number of participants in this week's poll, nearly 30 percent, say they will have to tone down their marketing claims, and another 9 percent are likely to take a close look at their messages to be confident that they won't be a target for FTC-related challenges.

 

Contact Christina Lewellen, senior editor, at clewellen@glass.org.

Comments

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“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” I’ve been following this story with more than just passing interest, and for once, I am thankful for the Federal government’s intervention in our business. Business practices like those described by the FTC in their complaint do nothing to elevate our industry, and in fact, bring us back to the days of the Tin Men. Making unsubstantiated performance claims in an effort to either win business, or inflate the value of one’s company at the expense of both the consumer and your competitor is beneath contempt.

 

What I found even more contemptible than the practice itself was the defense offered up by Kevin Surace of Serious Windows. He inasmuch chalked the whole thing up to “miscommunication”, as if this were the FTC’s mission. Point of fact: the FTC does not make it its business to counsel industries on proper communication; it does, however, pursue and prosecute companies who make fraudulent performance claims. To suggest this action by the FTC is anything less is just more “miscommunication”.

 

In his blog (written for another window magazine), Mr. Surace states for the record, so that there is NO miscommunication, “but truthfully I have seen “junk” come out of everyone’s factory at times”. Oh really? Ya wanna bet, chummy? Come on up to Maine, look me in the eye, or anyone of my 120 teammates and make that statement. But word of warning: you better bring your running shoes, ‘cause the New Hampshire border is a long way down the coast.

 Just this week I responded to a forum in which one of the forum respondents claimed that we were claiming a 30% reduction on your utility bills if you install Energy Star Replacement windows.  This kind-a-got under my skin because we try our best to provide as accurate information as possible to the consumer.  Sure enough, I looked at the page that was in question and it needed to be corrected--IMHO.  

The problem is that many of the companies in question were making outlandish claims.  I remember one of the companies mentioned by the FTC ruling claiming R-14 windows.  I just shook my head.  The industry needs to really focus on truth and accuracy, it will be better for all.  I wrote a blog article in response to the forum discussion if you want to read more...Do vinyl windows save on utility bills?

Here is an excerpt of that article:

Energy loss in the home is a function of the wall insulation, the ceiling insulation, the windows, as well as the efficiency of the heating and cooling unit. Just for discussion, if the walls are not insulated and one were to assume that over 75% of the heat loss from the home is via the inadequately insulated walls, then replacing the windows will absolutely not be the best place to spend your money that you have reserved for energy efficiency projects.