In a previous post, I discussed a greenwashing case against California LED lamp maker Lights of America (LOA).
In that case, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) accused LOA of making false or misleading statements about its products. The disputed statements allegedly misled consumers about the ability of certain LOA LED lamps to replace incandescents and included false claims of brightness and product life.
In that post I noted that the case was an example of an anti-greenwashing public enforcement action, one of the two primary legal means for combating alleged greenwashers.
Last month LOA became ensnared in the second type of anti-greenwashing activity, as an individual named Nathaniel Schwartz filed a consumer class action against the company.
The class action complaint (Schwartz-LOA-Complaint), filed in federal court in Los Angeles, cites the same allegedly false advertising claims as the FTC complaint (ftc-lights_of_america_complaint.pdf). Schwartz bolsters his claims with data from testing performed by Lighting Science, Inc. on behalf of LOA and from independent testing by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
Specifically, Schwartz accuses LOA of making misleading equivalency claims about how its LED lamps compare with various wattage incandescent bulbs.
According to the complaint, the claims for 20/25 watt replacements and 40/45 watt replacements are false because LOA’s LED lamps produce significantly less light output than a typical incandescent light bulb at those wattages.
Schwartz accuses LOA of continuing to make such equivalency claims even after becoming aware of the DOE test results.
The complaint also alleges that LOA overstated the light output of several products by representing that the LED lamps produce a specific level of light output in lumens when the company’s own tests demonstrated that they produce significantly less light.
Finally, Schwartz accuses LOA of making unsubstantiated claims about the number of hours its LED lamps would last. While LOA claimed that many of its LED recessed lamps will last 20,000 or 30,000 hours, the complaint alleges that the company did not test any of its products to support the lifetime claims and the DOE testing proved the claims to be false.
The complaint lists several California state claims such as false advertising and unfair and deceptive business practices and requests that the court issue an injunction to stop LOA from engaging in the alleged unfair practices.
Schwartz has also requested restitution and disgorgement of all profits LOA made through the alleged unfair practices and says the amount of money at stake in the case is over $5,000,000.
Eric Lane is a patent attorney at Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps in San Diego and the author of Green Patent Blog. Mr. Lane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.