Federal Trade Commission settles with Sherwin-Williams and PPG Architectural Paints over claims

WASHINGTON - The Federal Trade Commission settled charges with two of the nation's leading paint companies, including Cleveland-based Sherwin-Williams Company. The FTC said Sherwin-Williams and PPG Architectural Finishes, Inc. misled consumers to believe some of their paints were free of potentially harmful chemicals known as volatile organic compounds or VOCs.

VOCs are common in paint, and can be harmful to your health and the environment.

The Dutch Boy Refresh and Pure Performance interior paints claimed they had zero volatile organic compounds. The FTC said that may be true for the uncolored "base" paints, but it was not true for tinted paint.

The FTC said when consumers see a claim like "zero-VOC"; they interpret it as meaning the final product has no VOCs or trace amounts.

The government found both company's paints contained more than trace levels of VOCs after the base paint was mixed.

"Environmental claims, like the VOC-free claims in this case, are very difficult, if not impossible, for consumers to confirm," said David Vladeck, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "That's why it's so important for the FTC to give clear guidance to marketers, like the Commission's recently revised Green Guides, and to police the market to ensure that consumers actually get what they pay for."

Sherwin-Williams Director of Corporate Communications & Investor Relations, Mike Conway, said, "The FTC press release centers on a labeling issue regarding Dutch Boy Refresh paint. There is no issue with product quality for Dutch Boy Refresh or any other Sherwin-Williams product.

The FTC Revised Green Guides, released on October 1, 2012, spell out for the first time, new procedures for describing marketing information related to VOC content in paint. Prior to this release, all Sherwin-Williams products, including Dutch Boy Refresh, followed established industry testing practices for measuring VOC content. All Sherwin-Williams products, including Dutch Boy, comply with all applicable VOC regulations."
PPG Architectural Finishes, Inc. sells products under its own name as well as PPG, Pittsburgh Paints, Porter Paints, Pure Performance Paints and Olympic stain.

Company spokeman Jeremy Neuhart said, "PPG's Pure Performance interior base paints do not contain VOCs, and as such PPG's "zero VOC" marketing claims for Pure Performance apply to the base paints. Colorants added to base paint may result in finished products containing varying levels of VOCs, depending on the colorants used. PPG is working with the Federal Trade Commission to increase clarity regarding the marketing of low or zero-VOC paints."

As part of the settlement, the FTC said the companies agreed to not make deceptive claims in the future. The companies can't claim their paints contain "zero VOCs" unless after tinting they have a VOC level of zero grams per liter or the companies have competent and reliable scientific evidence.

The companies can clearly and prominently disclose that the zero claims only apply to the base paint and that your color choice could have a higher VOC level.

Sherwin-Williams said based on the FTC's just released green guidelines, the company is reviewing its labeling and marketing material to make sure everything complies with the new rules. If you have a question, call Sherwin-Williams at 1-888-304-3769 or email: questions@sherwin.com .

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