BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Recommends Generac Modify, Discontinue Certain Claims for Household Generators, Including Environmental Claims

New York, NY – Sept. 26, 2012 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Generac Power Systems, Inc., modify or discontinue certain advertising for the company’s standby household generators, including claims that Generac is the “most environmentally friendly generator on the market.”

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The claims at issue were challenged before NAD by the Kohler Company, Inc., a maker of competing generators.

In NAD proceedings, the advertiser has the initial burden of presenting a reasonable basis for its claims.

Where an advertiser makes comparative claims that may be disparaging to a competitor, NAD will carefully review the claims to ensure that they are truthful, accurate and narrowly drawn.  Further the challenged claims will be reviewed in the context of the advertising in which they appear to determine the reasonable messages conveyed and whether there is a “good fit” between those messages and the evidence in support of the claim.

In this case, NAD requested substantiation for claims related to the power, engine life, sound output, environmental benefits and safety performance of Generac generators.

Regarding its “environmentally friendly” claims, Generac noted that household generators are required to “exercise” on a regular basis to remain in top condition. Generac further noted that its product manuals recommend generators operate for 12 minutes each week, with a one minute cool-down period. By contrast, Kohler’s specifications call for a 20-minute run time with a five-minute cool down each week.

Generac argued that, over the course of a year, Kohler units will run 10.4 hours longer than Generac units, consuming more fuel and producing more emissions.

Following its review of the evidence, NAD noted that Generac should be free to tout the shortened exercise cycle of its generators, but recommended the company discontinue the broad unsupported claim, “the most environmentally friendly generator on the market.”

NAD recommended that Generac modify its power claims, “Generac units offer the highest output of any generator of its kind” and “more power packed into a smaller footprint than comparable competitive units,” to more accurately reflect the products’ benefits by clearly conveying that Generac has the most competitive price on the market or the smallest footprint, without implying that its generators have more power than competing generators.

Further, in the absence of head-to-head testing, NAD determined that the claim “an unequalled ± 1% voltage regulation,” be discontinued.

NAD further recommended that Generac discontinue its comparative engine life claim, “superior lubrication to all vital bearings means better performance, less maintenance and significantly longer engine life.”

With regard to the claim “Sound output (20 kW) in dB(A) at 23 ft. with generator operating at normal load = 66” and “Sound output (20 kW) in dB(A) at 23 ft. with generator in Quiet-Test low speed exercise mode = 60,” NAD recommend that Generac modify the claim to disclose in a clear and conspicuous manner that the reported decibel levels are from the front of the Generac unit and that decibel levels from other points around the unit may be higher.

Finally, NAD recommended that the claim, “whereas competing generators need to be installed five feet away from the home … a Generac stand-by generator only requires an 18-inch gap between the generator and the home,” be modified to disclose in a clear and conspicuous manner in immediate proximity to the triggering claim that state and local codes may require a setback greater than 18 inches and that the unit cannot be placed near doors, windows or fresh air intakes due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Generac took issue with certain of NAD’s findings. However, the company said, “in the spirit of cooperation with the self-regulatory process, Generac will accept and take into account all of NAD’s recommendations for future advertising.”