FTC alleges that company modified test samples
Insulate Industries, Inc., of Kent and Auburn, Washington, and company vice-president and co-owner Garry E. Wamsley, have been charged by the Federal Trade Commission with misrepresenting the insulating ability of windows they manufactured and sold in the Pacific Northwest. The FTC alleged that sample windows they submitted to a laboratory for testing on thermal insulating ability were modified so as to improve the test results. The test results then were used to sell unmodified production windows, according to the FTC. The FTC has asked a federal court to issue an order that will prohibit such practices. The Commis- sion also requested that the court order the defendants to pay redress to consumers.
The thermal efficiency, or insulating ability, of a structure's windows can affect the amount, and consequently the cost, of energy needed to heat and cool the structure. The thermal efficiency of a window is represented by its U-value: the lower the U-value, the greater the thermal efficiency. Federal, state and local government agencies, as well as utility companies, operate energy-conservation programs that identify test standards and establish U-value requirements for windows and other fenestration products.
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According to the FTC's complaint detailing the charges, Insulate Industries submitted sample windows to testing laboratories to conduct U-value tests. Since at least 1986, the defendants have, in some instances, used the laboratory test results of test samples that were constructed differently from corresponding production units, the complaint alleges. For example, the defendants applied guide buttons to the frame and silicone sealant to all the joints where the glass and frame met to one test sample window, which yielded a low (excellent) U- value rating, yet the production window did not contain guide buttons and silicone sealant, the FTC charged. The complaint alleges also that water drainage systems (weep holes) were omitted from other test samples but included in corresponding production units.
The samples were prepared under the direct supervision of defendant Wamsley, who then reported the test results to Insulate's sales department, the FTC alleged. These test results also allegedly were reported to government agencies and utility companies to show that the windows complied with the applicable energy program U-value requirements. (Compliance with the requirements of these programs is essential to those who buy or sell fenestration products such as windows because products that do not comply may not be sold in certain markets, or may be competitively disadvantaged, the complaint states.)
In addition, the defendants have repeatedly used the test results to show distributors, builders, contractors, and consumers that production units of their windows and other products complied with Pacific Northwest energy-conservation program requirements, the complaint charges.
Thus, the complaint alleges, the defendants have falsely represented that:
- the U-values of production units of Insulate windows were comparable to the U-values of the corresponding test samples;
- Insulate possessed and relied upon a reasonable basis for their claims; and
- the U-values of production units of Insulate windows were based on tests of samples that are representative of these production units.
The FTC filed its complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, in Seattle, late yesterday.
The Commission vote to file the complaint was 5-0. (Insulate--04/25/95)
NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has "reason to believe" that the law has been or is being violated and that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the law has actually been violated. The case will be decided by the court.
Copies of the complaint are available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.
(Civil Action No. C-95-624)
(FTC File No. 942 3141)