Antitrust Law Daily FTC settles claims paint manufacturers misrepresented health, environmental benefits of products
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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

FTC settles claims paint manufacturers misrepresented health, environmental benefits of products

By Jody Coultas, J.D.

Benjamin Moore & Co. and three other paint companies settled claims filed by the FTC that they deceptively promoted products as emission-free or containing zero volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The proposed settlements, announced today by the FTC, would bar the companies from making unqualified emission-free and VOC-free claims unless, at all times during application and after, both content in and emissions from their paints are actually zero, or emissions are at "trace levels," as defined in the orders. (In the Matter of YOLO Colorhouse, LLC, FTC File No. 162 3082; In the Matter of ICP Construction, Inc., FTC File No. 162 3081; In the Matter of Imperial Paints, FTC File No. 162 3080; In the Matter of Benjamin Moore & Co., FTC File No. 162 3079).

Paints emit chemicals during the painting process and while drying, and some can be harmful to the environment and people. The FTC alleged that YOLO Colorhouse, ICP Construction, Imperial Paints, and Benjamin Moore made unsubstantiated claims that their paints were free of emissions and/or that they contained no VOCs, without any qualification (e.g., after X number of hours). The companies also allegedly facilitated deception by retailers who sold their paint.

Benjamin Moore and ICP Construction also allegedly marketed their paint using environmental seals without disclosing that they had awarded the seal to their own products. Some promotions also made explicit safety claims regarding babies, children, pregnant women, and other consumers sensitive to chemical emissions.

The proposed consent orders prohibit the companies from making unqualified emission-free and VOC-free claims, unless both content and emissions are actually zero, or emissions are at trace levels, beginning at application and thereafter. The proposed orders’ definition of "trace level of emissions" generally track with the Green Guides’ "trace amount" test. The companies must have competent and reliable scientific evidence to back up any future environmental and health claims.

To correct the existing unsubstantiated claims, the orders would require the companies to send letters to their distributors, instructing them to stop using existing marketing materials and providing stickers or placards to correct misleading claims appearing on product packaging or labeling.

The proposed orders against Benjamin Moore and ICP Construction them from misrepresenting third-party certifications and failing to adequately disclose a material connection with an endorser.

If the Commission finalizes the agreements’ proposed orders, it plans to propose harmonizing changes to two earlier consent orders issued in cases against PPG Architectural Finishes, Inc. (Docket No. C-4385) and The Sherwin-Williams Company (Docket No. C-4386).

Companies: Benjamin Moore & Co., Inc.; Imperial Paints, LLC; ICP Construction Inc.; YOLO Colorhouse, LLC

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