Paint Companies Settle FTC Charges Over False VOC and Green Claims
In separate complaints, the FTC charged each company with making unsubstantiated and unqualified claims that their paints contained no VOCs and/or were free of emissions, as well as, in some cases, explicit safety claims regarding babies, children, pregnant women, and other sensitive populations. The FTC also charged the companies with facilitating deception by retailers who sold their paint. In its complaints against two of the companies–Benjamin Moore and ICP Construction– the FTC also alleged that the companies marketed their paint using environmental seals without disclosing to consumers that they had awarded the seal to their own products.
Under the proposed consent orders, the companies would be barred from making unqualified emission-free and VOC-free claims unless, at all times during application and after, both emissions and VOC content are actually zero, or emissions are at “trace levels,” as defined in the orders. The settlements would also prohibit the companies from making other unsubstantiated health and environmental claims.
In addition, the proposed consent orders require the companies to correct existing unsubstantiated claims by sending letters to their distributors, instructing them to stop using existing marketing materials and providing stickers or placards to correct misleading claims appearing on product packaging or labeling. The orders would also bar the companies from providing third parties with the means of making false, unsubstantiated, or misleading representations about material facts regarding these paints. Finally, the proposed orders against Benjamin Moore and ICP Construction contain provisions that would prohibit them from misrepresenting third-party environmental certifications and require that they adequately disclose any material connection with an endorser.
In announcing the proposed settlements, the Commission also indicated its intent to propose harmonizing changes to two earlier consent orders issued in the similar cases, involving PPG Architectural Finishes, Inc. and the Sherwin-Williams Company.
The FTC’s enforcement against these four paint companies comes at a time when promoting products as environmentally friendly has become an important part of product promotion strategies to help distinguish such products from competitor offerings. The action seems to signal the Commission’s continued commitment to vigorous enforcement of its requirements for adequate prior substantiation of all such “green” claims.
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