Don’t make an R-value claim if you can’t support it

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An ongoing FTC case is a reminder to businesses — If you make product claims based on scientific testing, you must have valid proof to back up those claims.

Case in point: Last fall, the FTC filed a lawsuit against Innovative Designs, Inc. (IDI) over allegations that the company violated the FTC Act by making false and unsubstantiated claims about its house wrap products.

Insulation comes with an R-value. The “R” means resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating power. That gives people the apples-to-apples benchmarks they need to comparison shop.

According to the FTC’s complaint, Pittsburgh-based manufacturer IDI claimed its Insultex House Wrap is “THE ONLY HOUSE WRAP WITH AN R-VALUE” and saves people money on their home energy and building costs when compared with other house wraps. IDI claimed its thinner, less-expensive house wrap has an insulation value of R-3 and its thicker, more expensive product has an R-6 value, and that its advertised R-values are based on valid scientific testing. The FTC begged to differ, and charged IDI with failing to substantiate its claims that the insulation value of Insultex House Wrap saves people money.

In fact, the FTC alleged that the R-value of both products is substantially less than one, and the test results and a certificate touted by the company are flawed and invalid. The bottom-line: According to the complaint, the R-value for IDI’s Insultex House Wrap is not what the company said, and the company didn’t have testing to back up its claims. The case is pending in federal court in Pennsylvania.

What tips does the FTC have for manufactures or sellers of insulation? The FTC takes R-value representations seriously. The R-value Rule requires insulation manufacturers and sellers to disclose the performance of their products, based on uniform testing procedures. After all, energy costs make up a hefty part of every household budget. If you haven’t reviewed your legal obligations for a while, now’s the time for a compliance warm-up.


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