Button up your coating claims before making energy representations

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Ask consumers what would make their lives easier and some lists might include a more comfortable home and lower bills. Four cases just filed by the FTC challenge allegedly deceptive R-value, energy-savings, or money-savings claims by unrelated companies that sell a variety of architectural coatings for houses and other structures.

First, a little R-value R-efresher. Most consumers are out in the cold when it comes to evaluating insulation claims, but a product’s R-value – a measure of its resistance to heat flow – offers some insights. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating power. By using the R-value and other information to choose products that suit their needs, consumers can improve the energy efficiency of their homes and bring down their bills. When it comes to insulation, most people are familiar with the fluffy stuff – fiberglass batt – and perhaps foam products. But those aren’t the only kind. The coatings at issue in these cases are typically applied like house paint, although at a slightly greater thickness, and are all marketed to insulate walls and roofs.

FG International.  F & G International Group Holdings, LLC, FG International, LLC, and J. Glenn Davis manufacture and market coatings, including one called FGI-4440. The Georgia-based defendants claimed that FGI-4400 applied at a thickness of 0.25 millimeter provides “extreme insulation value” and offers “an equivalent R value greater than 30.” Citing the results of purported ASTM Thermal Conductance and Thermal Conductivity tests, the defendants further claimed that tests support what they said about their product. But the FTC alleges that when applied at the recommended thickness, the product yields an R-value significantly less than one – and nowhere near the advertised R-30. Furthermore, according to the complaint, the purported test results don’t support the defendants’ R-value claims.

SPM Thermo-Shield.  In ads, packaging, and promotional materials, Florida-based SPM Thermo-Shield, Inc., Peter J. Spiska, and George P. Spiska made R-value and energy-savings claims for their Thermo-Shield Roof Coat, Thermo-Shield Exterior Wall Coating, and Thermo-Shield Interior Wall Coating. The defendants represented that Thermo-Shield coatings are “a thermal barrier that is reluctant to conduct heat and reflects as well as dissipates heat away from the surface,” and that they have “an insulation equivalent to an R-22 against solar heat.” In addition, the defendants said that using Thermo-Shield “CAN SAVE UP TO 50% ON YOUR HEATING AND COOLING COSTS.” But according to the FTC, the R-value of Thermo-Shield coatings applied as instructed isn’t R-22, but actually is considerably less than one. What about those money-savings claims? Unsubstantiated, says the FTC. The lawsuit also alleges that by giving promotional materials that included deceptive claims to resellers like builders, dealers, installers, and building supply stores, the defendants provided them with the means and instrumentalities for violating the law.

Superior Products International II.  The FTC’s action against Kansas-based Superior Products International II, Inc. and Joseph E. Pritchett challenges representations for Super Therm and Sunshield roof and wall coatings. The defendants said their products provide energy savings of “between 40% and 70%,” a claim the FTC alleges is unsubstantiated. They also represented that Super Therm provides a “benefit comparable to R 19,” has “a R-19 Equivalent Rating,” and has the same insulating qualities as six inches of “traditional fiberglass insulation.” What’s more, they described Sunshield as a “[c]ost-efficient alternative with similar performance characteristics to Super Therm.” The complaint challenges the defendants’ representations as deceptive. According to the FTC, the defendants lacked support for their energy savings claims and the coatings actually have R-values of much less than one – not the claimed R-19. The complaint also includes a “means and instrumentalities” count, alleging the defendants gave their distributors brochures, charts, videos, etc., that contained similar misrepresentations – claims the distributors passed on to consumers.

SuperTherm.  Based in Arizona, SuperTherm, Inc., Roberto Guerra, and Susana Guerra sell MultiCeramics Insulation. Advertising “R Equivalent INSULATION COATING THAT REALLY WORKS!”, the defendants’ promotional materials refer to the coating as “RE19” – meaning the equivalent of R-19. But according to the FTC, the coatings don’t significantly restrict heat flow and certainly don’t perform to the standard the defendants claim. The complaint alleges that when applied at the recommended thickness, the coatings offer an R-value of considerably less than one.

Accurate R-values are essential to consumers trying to stave off the summer heat and keep things cozy when it gets cold. If you want to tout the energy-saving properties of your products, you need solid scientific support for what you say. Even at this preliminary stage, these cases serve as a reminder for companies to substantiate their R-value, energy-savings, and money-savings claims.

 

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