The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has settled a complaint against five companies that sell replacement windows in numerous states, telling the companies that they will have to stop making exaggerated or unsupported claims about the energy efficiency of their windows and the amount of money consumers could save on their heating and cooling bills.

The settlements prohibit the companies from making these types of deceptive claims, a release from the federal agency says.

"Energy efficiency and cost savings are major factors for many consumers buying replacement windows," David Vladeck, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said. "The FTC is committed to making sure that the information consumers get is accurate and that marketers can back up the claims they make."

According to the FTC, the cases are part of a broad agency effort to ensure that environmental marketing is truthful and based on solid scientific evidence. The complaints allege that five companies—Gorell Enterprises, Inc.; Long Fence & Home LLLP; Serious Energy, Inc.; THV Holdings LLC; and Winchester Industries—“engaged in deceptive practices by making unsupported energy-efficiency and money-savings claims. In some cases, companies claimed that consumers could cut their energy bills in half by using replacement windows alone.

“Serious Energy openly worked with the FTC throughout the process and provided the agency with extensive data and documentation regarding our window products,” Valerie Jenkins, a senior marketing executive for Serious Energy, said in a statement. “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. We believe it is our responsibility to help educate consumers and empower them with the helpful and accurate information that they need to make the best purchasing decisions.”

Winchester, Gorell, Long Windows, and THV have not yet responded to Builder's requests for a statement or comment.

According to the FTC, Gorell Enterprises, which manufactures windows with the Thermal Master III glass system and other lines, lacked a reasonable basis for claiming that consumers who replaced existing windows with Thermal Master III windows were likely to achieve residential energy savings of 40% or save 40% on home heating and cooling costs.

It says Long Fence & Home’s claims that the Serious Energy Quantum 2 windows with SuperPak glass that Long Windows distributes and installs made “unsubstantiated” claims, including a 50% energy savings guarantee.
Serious Energy, the agency says, provided its dealers with marketing materials that included claims such as, "Guaranteed to reduce your heating and cooling use by up to 49%." The savings claims for the advertised windows were unsubstantiated, the FTC says.

THV Holdings' telemarketing sales scripts represented that its replacement windows would "cut energy bills in half" and that homeowners could expect to see a 35% to 55% reduction in monthly energy bills, among other claims. The agency charged that THV lacked a reasonable basis for the savings claims.

And finally, Winchester Industries, which manufactures the Bristol windows, 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." The FTC charged that Winchester lacked a reasonable basis for making its energy savings claims for its windows.

The proposed orders settle the charges against the companies and seek to prevent the companies from engaging in similar deceptive marketing practices in the future.

Nigel F. Maynard is a senior editor at Builder.