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Home builders not surprised by lackluster starts

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The housing starts pace of 529,000 was the lowest since October 2009, and consistent with what builders have been saying in recent surveys, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

"While builders remain extremely cautious about new construction at this time, they are looking forward to putting their employees back to work as economic conditions improve over the new year – assuming they can obtain the necessary financing for new-home production," said David Crowe, NAHB chief economist.

And while building permits increasd 16.7% in December, Crowe noted that the rate received a boost due to building code changes that were expected to go into effect in several states this January.

"The latest government report indicates that builders are preparing for an anticipated improvement in buyer demand in the spring buying season by pulling more permits in hopes of soon replenishing the very tight inventory of new homes for sale," said Bob Nielsen, NAHB chairman and a home builder from Reno, Nev. "That said, it remains to be seen if the availability of financing for new construction and existing viable projects will improve in order to make building feasible and facilitate a housing and economic recovery."

 

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NAD recommends Sherwin-Williams modify ‘no-VOC’ claims

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that Sherwin-Williams modify or discontinue advertising claims that its Harmony paint line is completely free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

The NAD, which is the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, reviewed claims made by Sherwin-Williams in Web and print advertising following a challenge by Benjamin Moore & Co.

Specifically, Benjamin Moore challenged Sherwin-Williams’ claims of “No-VOC formula,” “Zero-VOC formula,” and “Formulated without silica and without VOCs for better indoor air quality.”

The NAD also reviewed the implied claim that the full line of Sherwin-Williams Harmony paints, including base paint and paint containing color, contain no VOCs.

For purposes of this challenge only, both the NAD and Benjamin Moore agreed that a “zero-VOC” or “no-VOC” claim is substantiated if the VOC content of the paint contains less than 5.0 grams per liter VOC.

The NAD said that based on Sherwin-William’s Material Safety Data Sheets and Technical Data Sheets, certain colors in its Harmony line would exceed the 5.0 g/L VOC threshold when its deep base paint was mixed with conventional colorants, but the majority of the paints in its Harmony line would yield less than 5.0 g/L.

The NAD also reviewed the results of testing commissioned by Benjamin Moore on selected colors of Harmony paints. According to those tests, after the addition of conventional colorants to Sherwin-Williams’ deep base paint, VOC levels ranged from 42 to 112 g/L for “Coating” VOCs.

In response, Sherwin-Williams questioned the testing and maintained that because the majority of its paints in the Harmony line fall below the 5.0 g/L threshold, its zero-VOC claims are substantiated as to its entire line of Harmony paints.  

As a result, the NAD recommended that the claim be discontinued or modified to clearly convey to consumers that Harmony deep base paint may result in higher levels of VOCs for some colors.

According to a release by NAD, Sherwin-Williams responded to the recommendation by saying the company “is disappointed that the NAD did not agree with its position that both consumers and the industry understand zero-VOC claims to pertain only to the majority of colors in a paint line, as opposed to being a 100% ‘line claim.’ However, out of respect for the self-regulatory process, Sherwin-Williams will accept the NAD’s decision and will take the NAD’s findings into consideration in its future advertising for Harmony.”

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FTC halts phony green agency

BY HBSDEALER Staff

An organization that called itself “Tested Green” — and claimed to certify green products for as much as $549.95 — was put out of business by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the agency has announced.

More than 100 customers paid various fees to have their products endorsed by Tested Green between February 2009 and April 2010, according to the FTC. Owner Jeremy Ryan Claeys claimed that the testing labs were independent, when in fact he owned the operations.

Claeys advertised, marketed and sold environmental certifications using both the website testedgreen.com and mass e-mails to prospective consumers. The company’s marketing claimed that Tested Green was the “nation’s leading certification program with over 45,000 certifications in the United States,” FTC investigators claim.

The FTC complaint alleges, however, that Tested Green never tested any of the companies it provided with environmental certifications, and would “certify” anyone willing to pay a fee of either $189.95 for a “Rapid” certification or $549.95 for a “Pro” certification. After customers paid, Tested Green gave them its logo and the link to a “certification verification page” that could be used to advertise their “certified” status. The agency charged that the respondents violated the FTC Act by providing the means to deceive consumers.

The FTC also claims that Tested Green deceived consumers by citing its endorsements from the National Green Business Association and the National Association of Government Contractors — implying that these were independent organizations when, in fact, both are owned and operated by Claeys.

Claeys and Tested Green did not admit guilt as part of the settlement, and the FTC notes that the agreement was “not a finding or ruling that the respondents have violated the law.”

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