Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Marketers Better Be Able to Prove Green Claims

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Marketers Better Be Able to Prove Green Claims

Article excerpt

How green is green?

Many companies make claims for their products' supposed environmental benefits, but they better be able to back up them up or face sanctions from government regulators, as we saw twice last week.

In one case, a Los Angeles-based maker of light-emitting diode light bulbs, or LEDs, was ordered to pay more than $21 million for exaggerating the product's performance, while a Wisconsin company agreed to stop making claims about the recyclability of its plastic lumber products.

"Consumers deserve to know the truth about the products they are buying," said Jessica Rich, director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection, which initiated both cases. "Many of them want to buy products that are environmentally friendly, but they can't do that if they get information that's wrong or unsupported."

Maybe that's why some unscrupulous marketers claim they are green when they aren't or can't prove it, the Federal Trade Commission alleges.

The actions are just the latest in the FTC's ongoing "prove it" campaign when it comes to claims of environmental benefits.

Last fall the agency filed complaints against six companies for what it says were deceptive biodegradable claims. Among the targets were a company that markets an additive it claims makes plastic products biodegradable and five companies that marketed various plastics using allegedly false and unsupported claims that items were biodegradable.

The $21.2 million judgment by a federal court in California against the LED maker comes 3 1/2 years after the FTC first alleged that the company, Lights of America Inc., grossly overstated the output and life expectancy of its LED bulbs and falsely compared their brightness with that of other bulbs.

The company's initial claim was that its LED lamps had a 30,000- hour life and lasted 15 times longer than 2,000-hour incandescent bulbs. Light of America revised the claims downward several times, but none of the bulbs that were tested lasted beyond a few thousand hours, the FTC said.

Cases like this usually are settled through negotiations, but this one went to a four-day bench trial, and the FTC's allegations were upheld. …

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