Window Companies Settle with FTC Over Deceptive Energy
Efficiency and Cost Claims
Five companies that sell replacement windows in numerous
states will have to stop making exaggerated and unsupported claims about
the energy efficiency of their windows, and how much money consumers could
save on their heating and cooling bills by having them installed, under
settlements with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), according to an announcement
released in February. The settlements prohibit the companies from making
these types of deceptive claims.
“Energy efficiency and cost savings are major factors for many consumers
buying replacement windows,” says David Vladeck, director of the FTC's
Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The FTC is committed to making sure that
the information consumers get is accurate and that marketers can back
up the claims they make.”
The FTC’s complaints allege the five companies engaged in deceptive practices
by making unsupported energy-efficiency and money-savings claims—in some
cases, that consumers could cut their energy bills in half by using replacement
windows alone. The companies named in the settlements are: Gorell Enterprises
Inc.; Long Fence & Home LLLP; Serious Energy Inc.; THV Holdings LLC
and Winchester Industries.
According to the FTC, Gorell Enterprises Inc., which was recently purchased
by Soft-Lite, and also operates under the names Gorell Windows & Doors
and American Conservatory Systems, manufactures windows with the “Thermal
Master III” glass system and other lines. The FTC announcement notes that
the company’s “40% Energy Savings Pledge” promised consumers savings of
at least 40 percent of home fuel consumption for both heating and cooling
in the first year after their windows were installed, or they would repay
them the difference, up to $500. According to the FTC’s complaint, Gorell
lacked a reasonable basis for claiming that consumers who replace their
windows with Thermal Master III windows were likely to achieve residential
energy savings of 40 percent or save 40 percent on home heating and cooling
Based in Maryland, Long Fence & Home does business under a number
of names, including Long Windows. It distributes and installs Serious
Energy’s Quantum 2 windows with SuperPak glass, among other lines, says
the FTC announcement. Long's advertisements in various media have included
claims such as “50% Energy Savings Guaranteed,” and “save 50% on Energy
Bills—or LONG PAYS YOU!” Long also pledged 50 percent savings on heating
and cooling energy usage. Long’s website included a “savings calculator”
that invited users to enter their average monthly energy bills and click
a button to “CALCULATE SAVINGS.” According to the FTC, Long's savings
claims for the advertised windows were unsubstantiated.
windows are a major part of the energy envelope, a home’s insulation level
and structure amongst other factors also add to the equation. Consumers
should look to the labels of any building product to note features and
—John DePaola, president of Long Fence and Home
“There is a tremendous span of new technology in high-performance
windows,” John DePaola, president of Long Fence and Home, told DWM magazine.
“The better products lend themselves to better energy efficiencies. Unfortunately,
the modeling that takes everything into account doesn’t yet exist to properly
project energy savings for every home or building. While replacement windows
are a major part of the energy envelope, a home’s insulation level and
structure amongst other factors also add to the equation. Consumers should
look to the labels of any building product to note features and benefits
He adds that he appreciates the efforts of the FTC in “assuring consumers
get the most accurate and up to date information.”
Because of their work, the entire industry will be in a better position
to communicate cost-saving benefits to consumers that can be validated,”
Based in California, Serious Energy provides its dealers with marketing
materials, including brochures and other information on its website. According
to the FTC, these materials have included claims such as, “Guaranteed
to reduce your heating and cooling use by up to 49%.” Serious Energy also
offered heating and cooling reduction pledges, varying by dealer, and
promised consumers would be paid up to $500 if they did not realize these
savings within one year of when the windows were installed, says the announcement.
The FTC alleged that Serious Energy’s savings claims for the advertised
windows were unsubstantiated.
Valerie Jenkins, vice president of marketing at Serious Energy, told DWM
magazine that the company collaborated closely with the FTC throughout
the process and provided the agency with extensive data and documentation
regarding its window products.
“We are strong supporters of processes and systems that promote the dissemination
of accurate information to consumers and hold companies accountable for
their marketing claims,” says Jenkins. “We believe it is our responsibility
to help educate consumers and empower them with helpful and accurate information
that they need to make the best purchasing decisions. Consumers are best
served when markets are credible, fair, competitive and open. Industry
self-regulation and FTC regulation both raise the bar on advertising best
practices, and that benefits both the public and the industry as a whole.
We, as an industry, best serve our customers by delivering high-quality
products and by becoming a trusted resource that helps consumers make
informed, smart purchasing decisions. We continue our commitment to these
values, and we hope other window manufacturers do the same.”
Based in Kentucky, THV’s telemarketing sales scripts, according to the
FTC, represented that its replacement windows will “cut energy bills in
half”; that homeowners will typically see a 35- to 55-percent reduction
in monthly energy bills; that “our homeowners have noticed that our windows
saved them 35% to 55% off their energy bills,” and pledged that its windows
systems “will pay for themselves in energy savings alone in 8 years or
we will pay the difference … our windows are free!!” The FTC charged that
THV disseminated the claims in sales scripts for the company’s THV Compozit
windows with Alter-Lite triple pane glass. The FTC also charged that THV
lacked a reasonable basis for its savings claims.
Based in Pennsylvania, Winchester manufactures Bristol and WinterLock
Super Triple-E, A-Plus with Alpha-10 windows. In its promotional materials,
Winchester claimed that consumers would “reduce energy costs by 47%” and
that “the triple-paned design of some replacement windows, such as Bristol
windows, can also produce energy savings of up to 50% a year,” says the
announcement. Winchester’s consumer testimonials claimed similar results,
and the company pledged a heating and cooling reduction of at least 47
percent. The FTC charged that Winchester lacked a reasonable basis for
making its energy savings claims for its windows.
According to the FTC, the proposed orders settling the charges against
the five companies are designed to prevent the companies from engaging
in similar deceptive marketing practices in the future.
According to the FTC, part I of the proposed settlements prohibits each
company from claiming:
• That consumers who replace their current windows with those of the company
will achieve up to, or a specified amount or percentage of energy savings,
or a reduction in their heating or cooling costs; or
• That the company guarantees or pledges that consumers who replace their
windows with the company’s windows will achieve such energy savings unless
the claim is non-misleading and when the company makes the claim, it has
competent and reliable scientific evidence to substantiate that all or
almost all consumers are likely to achieve the maximum savings claimed.
For a more detailed version of this story, visit dwmmag.com.
Reporting by Ellen Rogers, assistant editor and Tara Taffera,
editor for DWM/Shelter magazine.
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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.