In a warning to marketers, the Federal Trade Commission today settled charges with five companies that claimed energy-efficient replacement windows could save consumers "up to" 35 to 55 percent in heating and cooling bills.
The FTC found that "most customers could never achieve these kinds of results,” said James Kohm, associate director of the enforcement division in the Bureau of Consumer Protection, during a call with reporters. “They shouldn’t be implying most people are going to receive outlier claims... ‘Up to’ claims are interpreted by consumers to mean they’ll likely receive the benefits.”
The five companies — Gorell Enterprises, Inc.; Long Fence & Home, LLLP; Serious Energy, Inc.; THV Holdings LLC; and Winchester Industries — were charged in administrative complaints with violating Section 5 of the FTC Act. The settlements require them to stop making the claims, but do not include monetary penalties, nor do the defendants admit wrongdoing.
Kohm explained that cash penalties are not permitted in such administrative cases, but any future violation carries a stiff fine.
Also, he said it would have been “very hard to determine losses” for consumers who installed the windows expecting mega-savings on energy bills. The amount of energy savings varies by consumer, and depends on factors like whether the old windows were single-pane glass, the home's insulation and climate. “It’s highly dependent on individual consumers,” he said.
He also noted that consumers replace windows for a variety of reasons such as appearance, and not just for energy savings.
Overall, he estimated that the average true savings on energy bills as a result of new windows is more like 5 to 20 percent.
“We’re not claiming these are bad windows,” he said. “They just overstated the energy savings.”