BOSTON (Legal Newsline) – Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced on Wednesday that her office had reached a settlement with a Michigan company that allegedly took part in false advertising about environmentally friendly products.
The settlement resolves the commonwealth’s claims that EarthTronics Inc., which sells mercury-containing compact fluorescent light bulbs, violated the state’s consumer protection laws in making assertions in advertisements that conveyed that the company was a conscientious environmental corporate citizen.
At the time of the ads, the company was allegedly out of compliance with the state’s program for managing the disposal of waste mercury in the CFLs it sells. Since that time, the company has taken steps to comply with the state’s mercury management program, Coakley says.
Under the terms of the settlement, EarthTronics has agreed to refrain from making environmental claims that are unsupported in the future and has paid the commonwealth $7,500 in costs and penalties to resolve the matter.
The company allegedly became out of compliance with state mercury management laws by failing to submit a certification acknowledging compliance with the law, by failing to provide information regarding proper disposal and recycling methods for mercury-added lamps, and by failing to have in place a consumer education program regarding the mercury in its bulbs.
“While using compact fluorescent light bulbs helps conserve energy, it is important that the bulbs are collected and recycled properly to protect our environment,” Coakley said. “We will continue to pursue companies that project themselves as being stewards of the environment to attract customers, when in fact they are failing to comply with the commonwealth’s important environmental protection programs.”
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection notified EarthTronics that it was out of compliance with the law, issuing the company a notice of enforcement that led to a $6,000 penalty in a consent order signed with MassDEP. The company allegedly then proceeded to make vague and unsubstantiated claims in its ads conveying it was a steward of the environment.
Coakley’s office notified EarthTronics about the commonwealth’s concerns about its advertising in December. The company then worked with MassDEP to come into compliance with the mercury management program and worked with Coakley’s office to avoid making unsubstantiated environmental advertising claims in the future.