Sherwin-Williams Company and PPG Architectural Finishes have settled Federal Trade Commission charges that they misled consumers to believe that some of their paints are free of potentially harmful chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
The two companies agreed to settlements with the FTC requiring them to stop making the allegedly deceptive claim that their Dutch Boy Refresh and Pure Performance interior paints, respectively, contain “zero” volatile organic compounds.
According to the agency, while this may be true for the uncolored “base” paints, it is not true for tinted paint, which typically has much higher levels of the compounds, and which consumers usually buy.
VOCs are carbon-containing compounds that easily evaporate at room temperatures. Some VOCs can be harmful to human health and the environment.
Historically interior paints, which are the subject of the FTC’s cases against Sherwin-Williams and PPG, have contained significant levels of VOCs.
“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.”
The Sherwin-Williams Company is headquartered in Cleveland.
Sherwin Williams was represented by Kelley Drye & Warren.
PPG was represented by Reed Smith.
With annual sales of $7.8 billion, it is the largest coatings manufacturer in the United States and the third-largest in the world.
It markets and sells product under the Sherwin-Williams, Dutch Boy, Krylon, Minwax, and Thompson’s WaterSeal brands.
PPG Architectural Finishes, Inc. (PPG) is headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A subsidiary of PPG Industries, Inc., it does business under its own name, as well as under the names PPG, Pittsburgh Paints, Porter Paints, Pure Performance Paints and Olympic stain.
The FTC’s administrative complaints against Sherwin-Williams and PPG charge the companies with violating the FTC Act by making false and unsubstantiated claims that that their paints contain “zero VOCs” after tinting.
The FTC alleged that in many instances, both Sherwin-Williams’s Dutch Boy Refresh and PPG’s Pure Performance paints contain more than trace levels of VOCs after the base paint is tinted.
The complaints also charge the companies with distributing promotional materials that provided independent retailers with the means to deceptively advertise that the companies’ paints contain zero VOCs.