The Federal Trade Commission reached an agreement that will put an end to the deceptive tactics of a company that allegedly sold worthless environmental certifications for hundreds of dollars, and falsely told more than 100 customers that its certifications were endorsed by two independent firms, which it actually owned. The FTC settlement bars Tested Green and its owner Jeremy Ryan Claeys from making misrepresentations when selling any product.
“It’s really tough for most people to know whether green or environmental claims are credible,” said David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Legitimate seals and certifications are useful tools that can help consumers choose where to place their trust and how to spend their money. The FTC will continue to weed out deceptive seals and certifications like the one in this case.”
According to the FTC, between February 2009 and April 2010, Tested Green and Claeys advertised, marketed, and sold environmental certifications using both the website www.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.”
The FTC complaint alleges, however, that Tested Green never tested any of the companies it provided with environmental certifications, and would “certify” anyone willing 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 alleges 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.
The proposed order settles the FTC’s charges against Nonprofit Management LLC and Jeremy Ryan Claeys, both also doing business as Tested Green. It prohibits them from misrepresenting that:
- an outside party has evaluated a product, service, package, or program based on its environmental attributes;
- that they have or a third party has the expertise to evaluate the environmental benefits or attributes of a product, service, package, or program;
- the number of certifications they have issued; and
- that a product, package, certification, service, package, or program is endorsed by any person or organization.
The order also bars Tested Green and Claeys from helping anyone else make false or misleading statements in connection with any of the conduct described above, and bars them from making any representations about a user or endorser unless they clearly and prominently disclose any connection they have with the endorser if one exists. The proposed order also contains reporting obligations and other provisions to ensure compliance with its terms. It will expire in 20 years.
The Commission votes approving the administrative complaint and proposed settlement order was 5-0. The order will be subject to public comment for 30 days, until February 11, 2011, after which the Commission will decide whether to make it final. Written comments should be sent to: FTC, Office of the Secretary, 600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20580. Comments can be filed electronically at http://ftcpublic.commentworks.com/ftc/testedgreen.