Feds fine companies for not disclosing energy use of appliances

EnergyGuide label violations.Three online retailers will pay as much as $400,000 in penalties to settle Federal Trade Commission allegations that they failed to post EnergyGuide information on their websites to tell people how much energy their appliances consume.

P.C. Richard & Son, Inc., and P.C. Richard & Son, LLC, doing businesses as (d/b/a) Pcrichard.com, of Farmingdale, N.Y.; Abt Electronics, Inc., d/b/a abt.com, of Glenview, Ill; and Pinnacle Marketing Group, Corp., d/b/a homeeverything.com, of Brooklyn, N.Y.; all signed agreements with the FTC.

The agency also notified the following two online merchants that it will seek $640,000 in fines for similar violations: Universal Computers and Electronics, Inc., d/b/a appliancebestbuys.com, of Jamaica, N.Y.; and Universal Appliances, Kitchens, and Baths, Inc., d/b/a universal-akb.com, of Studio City, Calif.

The online appliance retailers knowingly violated FTC labeling rules requiring they provide EnergyGuide information for certain products such as refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, air conditioners, water heaters, and washing machines. EnergyGuide estimates the annual cost of operating an appliance.

The cases mark the first time the FTC has pursued legal action against online retailers for violations of the Appliance Labeling Rule.

"Companies selling appliances covered by the FTC's rules, either online or in stores, have an obligation to provide EnergyGuide labels," said David Vladeck, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a statement. "The information on the labels helps shoppers make smart buying decisions that take into account energy use."

The FTC exercised its authority under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act to levy civil fines for willful violations of the Appliance Labeling Rule against the five online retailers, which also operate brick-and-mortar stores in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois, and California.

The three companies settling the FTC charges have agreed to pay the following fines: P.C. Richard & Son, Inc., $180,000; Abt Electronics, Inc., $137,500; and Pinnacle Marketing Group, Corp., $100,000.

The other two companies, Universal Computers and Electronics, Inc. and Universal Appliances, Kitchens, and Baths, Inc., have not agreed to settle.

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