In late February, the Federal Trade Commission completed its first round of investigation into the window industry. Four window manufacturers and one of the manufacturer’s dealers settled with the FTC for what it calls “deceptive” claims made about energy and dollar savings on window products.
“The attorneys general have been all over the industry for a long time now. We’ve been warning about this for years. You can’t say a particular window saves [a client] 40% on energy bills every year, for instance,” says construction attorney and REMODELING columnist D.S. Berenson, who represented one of the window companies. “These companies are actually lucky that the FTC came after them and not a class action lawyer,” Berenson says. “That may still happen, and that would be a real mess.”
But it’s not just the replacement industry that needs to be vigilant. “Contractors, design/build companies, specialty remodelers, and home builders all have been running advertisements based on what media companies and consultants have told them they should say. The majority of it has been illegal for years,” Berenson says. He suggests contractors do not run any advertising about the home that hasn’t been “legally sanitized.” At a minimum, they need to find a law firm that has an understanding of advertising law.
Help on the Way
NAPAC (the National Association of Professionally Accredited Contractors) is working on a city-by-city study (due out in August) that looks at the kinds of dollar savings that are possible with new windows. “It will be scientifically based analysis that a contractor’s marketing department can reference,” says Berenson, who is also working on a practical guidebook with Hanley Wood (the company that publishes REMODELING) about the legality of construction industry sales and marketing practices.
—Stacey Freed, senior editor, REMODELING.