EnergyGuide Violations Cost Online Retailer a $100,000 FTC Fine

EnergyGuide and FTCAn online appliance retailer agreed to pay a $100,000 penalty to settle Federal Trade Commission charges over its failure to comply with EnergyGuide requirements, while another online retailer faces a $540,000 fine for ignoring an FTC letter for similar violations.

Universal Appliances, Kitchens, and Baths Inc. of Ventura, Calif., which does business as Universal-akb.com, agreed to settle FTC charges that it failed to publish mandatory EnergyGuide information on its websites to educate consumers about the energy usage of the major home appliances it carries.Meanwhile, the FTC filed an administrative complaint seeking a penalty of $540,000 against Universal Computers and Electronics Inc., which hasn't responded to FTC charges regarding its failure to publish EnergyGuide information on its websites. The Jamaica, N.Y.-based company does business as universallcdtv.com and used to operate the site Appliancebestbuys.com.

The FTC accused both companies of violated the agency's Appliance Labeling Rule, which helps consumers make informed decisions about their purchases by requiring companies to provide energy use information for such products as refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, air conditioners, water heaters and washing machines.

Since November 2010, the FTC has taken legal action against five companies for allegedly violating the Appliance Labeling Rule. Last year, as Consumer Ally reported, three of the retailers agreed to pay more than $400,000 in penalties for violating the Appliance Labeling Rule.

EnergyGuide information estimates the annual cost of operating an appliance. Under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, the FTC can assess penalties against online retailers that fail to provide EnergyGuide information. The agency must first notify the non-settling companies of the proposed penalty amounts, which it did in all these cases. The companies can then choose to pay the proposed penalty or be sued by the FTC in an administrative proceeding.

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