The Federal Trade Commission today announced the following actions:
Consent agreement given final approval:
Following a public comment period, the Commission has made final a consent agreement regarding the following: Enerjet Corporation. The Commission vote to finalize the consent agreement was 5-0. (FTC File No. 992-3192; staff contact is John Rothchild, Bureau of Consumer Protection, 202-326-3307; see press release dated March 7, 2001.)
Two New Publications as Earth Day 2001 Nears: Cooling And Fueling Tips
As the mercury rises, so can the costs of keeping your home cool. And while news reports about high energy prices may have you in a sweat, a new consumer brochure from the Federal Trade Commission, Cooling Your Home: Don't Sweat It, offers tips to help you save money while keeping your home cool this summer.
When gasoline prices rise, consumers often look for ways to improve fuel efficiency. Although there are practical steps you can take to increase gas mileage, the FTC warns you to be wary of any gas-saving claims for automotive devices or oil and gas additives. Even for the few gas-saving products that have been found to work, the savings have been small. "Gas-Saving" Products: Fact or Fuelishness? describes numerous no- or low-cost steps you can take to combat rising gas prices.
Cooling Your Home: Don't Sweat It
Start with an energy audit to help detect waste and gauge the efficiency of your current cooling system. Your utility company may offer free or low-cost energy audits, or you can conduct your own. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA) offer tips and checklists at www.homeenergysaver.lbl.gov. The home "walk-through" can help you spot areas that need attention or problems that, if fixed, could save you money.
If you're buying a new air conditioning system, check the black and yellow EnergyGuide labels, which the FTC requires on most major appliances, including central and room air conditioners. The labels provide useful information about products' energy efficiency and estimated annual operating costs. Air conditioners with higher energy efficiency ratios are more energy efficient. In addition the FTC notes that when energy prices rise, so does advertising for a host of energy-saving products and services - including some that are overpriced or just plain bogus.
The brochure cautions consumers to be wary of devices, gadgets and energy-saving products that promise drastic reductions in home cooling costs or extreme energy savings and advises them to:
- Read the energy-saving claims carefully and, if possible, get independent information about a product's performance.
- Avoid unsolicited door-to-door sales calls and high pressure personal or telephone sales pitches from contractors offering air conditioning systems, windows, roofing, and other home improvement projects.
- Make sure that a contractor is licensed and reputable: Ask your friends and neighbors for referrals; ask the contractor for customer references; and check out potential contractors with the Better Business Bureau, state and local consumer protection officials, and your state licensing agency. The FTC's Cooling-Off Rule gives you three business days to cancel a contract if you sign it in your home or at a location other than the contractor's permanent place of business.
For More Information:
Call the FTC toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or visit www.ftc.gov, to get the free publications: Heating and Cooling Your Home, How to Buy an Energy-Efficient Home Appliance, and Home Insulation Basics: Higher R-Values = Higher Insulating Values.
DOE's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Network is a clearinghouse of energy-efficiency information. Find it online at www.eren.doe.gov; call toll-free, 1-800-DOE-EREC (1-800-363-3732) (TDD: 1-800-273-2957); or write to U.S. Department of Energy B EREC, PO Box 3048, Merrifield, VA 22116.
"Gas-Saving" Products: Fact or Fuelishness?
The most important place to look for gas savings is at the gas pump; Buy only the octane level gas you need. All gas pumps must post the octane rating of the gas under the FTC's Fuel Rating Rule. Remember, the higher the octane, the higher the price. Check your owner's manual to determine the right octane level for your car.
In addition, the brochure cautions consumers to be skeptical of the following kinds of advertising claims for gas-saving products:
"This gas-saving product improves fuel economy by 20 percent."
Claims usually tout savings ranging from 12 to 25 percent. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has evaluated or tested more than 100 alleged gas-saving devices and has not found any product that significantly improves gas mileage. In fact, some "gas-saving" products may damage a car's engine or cause substantial increases in exhaust emissions.
"This gas-saving device is approved by the Federal government."
No government agency endorses gas-saving products for cars. The most that can be claimed in advertising is that the EPA has reached certain conclusions about possible gas savings by testing the product or by evaluating the manufacturer's own test data. If the seller claims that its product has been evaluated by the EPA, ask for a copy of the EPA report, or check www.epa.gov for information. In some instances, false claims of EPA testing or approval have been made.
The brochure notes that many ads feature glowing testimonials by satisfied customers. Yet, few consumers have the ability or the equipment to test for precise changes in gas mileage after installing a gas-saving product. Many variables affect fuel consumption, including traffic, road and weather conditions, and the car's condition.
The brochure also provides several additional tips from the EPA to help you get better gas mileage, and includes a list of devices tested by EPA, which categorizes various types of "gas-saving" products, explains how they're used and gives product names.
For more information about EPA test procedures and test results, write: Verification and Compliance Division, Office of Transportation and Air Quality, Environmental Protection Agency, 2000 Traverwood Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48105; or call: 734-214-4925.
Copies of the documents mentioned in this release are available from the FTC's Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the online complaint form. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
Office of Public Affairs
Bureau of Consumer Protection
(for the consumer brochures)