When Going Green Goes
by Chip Gentry
With energy costs skyrocketing and consumers looking for
ways to save money, most businesses have added “green” lines to their
business inventories. Consumer demand has led to the widespread development
and production of green products. But with those products comes risk.
Growing consumer demand for information about new, innovative “green”
products is forcing manufacturers and dealers to accelerate marketing
well before final products hit the marketplace.
The founders and employees of OKNA Windows share a long-standing commitment
to building the best window at the best price for their customers. One
of their dealers, Window Wizards, sells various OKNA product lines. Recently,
you may have heard about a situation that should come as a lesson to everyone
in the door and window industry.
Don’t Let This Happen to You
OKNA Windows is an established East Coast manufacturer based out of Bristol,
Pa. Formed in 1994, the company has grown from 12 to more than 100 employees
and has two manufacturing facilities spanning more than 80,000 square
feet. Understanding that consumers wanted energy-efficient windows available
in a range of prices as well as a range of energy efficiency, OKNA designed
and manufactured windows that were both aesthetically satisfying and energy-efficient.
In doing so, OKNA’s dealer network was able to use the energy-efficient
qualities of OKNA windows as a major sales point. Verified by a national
testing laboratory, OKNA consistently met the demand for energy-efficient
windows by providing windows with U-values of 0.27 and lower. However,
in offering such efficient products, OKNA ran into a situation where its
concept for a new, energy-efficient “green” window created a public relations
such efficient products, OKNA ran into a situation where its concept for
energy-efficient “green” window created a public relations headache."
In July of 2009, a FOX affiliate in Pennsylvania ran an investigative
report on a new line of OKNA windows that contained foam insulation to
achieve greater efficiency ratings (see September DWM, page 16). In the
report, a subcontractor who had previously installed windows for Window
Wizards showed customers that the frames were not completely insulated
with foam, contrary to a photo of a corner cut from a window prototype
in sales brochures. The sales brochures were used by Window Wizards to
further market and sell OKNA’s products.
The investigative report spun the story, asserting that the consumers
were getting a raw deal because they bought foam insulating windows that
were not completely filled. What Fox 29 failed to tell its audience was
that the windows contained enough foam to achieve, in essence, the same
energy efficiency ratings as were advertised in the sales brochures.
In the ethos of today’s “gotcha” journalism, the investigative report
picked up on the slight visual difference between the finished product
and the promotional materials, and ran with it. In reality, the windows
provided are still top-of-the-line, provide the same energy efficiency
as was promised in the literature, and remain backed by the same solid
guarantee OKNA provides with all of its products. OKNA is working with
its dealer, Window Wizards, to make service calls to customers and correct
any concerns. Unfortunately, OKNA’s good faith efforts and willingness
to stand behind its products has not stopped lawyers from seizing upon
the opportunity to sue, given what was reported on the Fox News story
(One customer filed a a putative class action suit against both Windowwizards
and OKNA.) OKNA, like many manufacturers, is equipped with a technologically
advanced range of energy- efficient products, a manufacturing facility,
and a brand that dealers and consumers want and trust.
Another challenge that manufacturers must face when their products and
marketing efforts are called into question is aggressive dealers, such
dealers, competing for business and selling competitive products from
other manufacturers, may use the spun story to garner more market share.
These dealers may jump on industry blogs or send out mass e-mails telling
purchasers to not buy from the manufacturer under fire. The “guilty-until-proven-innocent”
concept seems to be the driving force behind such action.
and dealers are scared of “litigation against innovation,”
then consumers will be denied the most energy-efficient and cost-efficient
When it comes to innovation, industry leaders understand offering energy-efficient
green products is becoming a requirement rather than an option. Dealers
market and sell the products. Dealers understand customers are willing
to pay for green products. When innovators like OKNA fear best practices,
they will no longer be able to meet the public’s growing demand for more
energy-efficient products at a lower cost. If manufacturers and dealers
are scared of “litigation against innovation,” then consumers will be
denied the most energy-efficient and cost-efficient products. Competition
between manufacturers to build the best product and dealers to sell them
leads to more innovation. At its extreme, we may never solve our nation’s
energy crisis if fear from change rules the day versus striving to meet
consumer demand for green products. The bottom line is: Check your advertising,
check your warranties, and double-check everything with your attorney.
Chip Gentry is an attorney with Carson & Coil P.C. in Jefferson
City, Mo. Gentry focuses on many cases involving door and window manufacturers
and is currently representing OKNA Windows. His opinions are solely his
own and not necessarily those of this magazine.
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