Companies to Stop Using Deceptive Advertising to Sell Home Water Filter Systems
Basement Technologies and McMahon Plumbing & Heating Allegedly Misled Residents about Quality of Water Supply; Ordered to Pay Costs and Penalties
BOSTON – Two Massachusetts companies that allegedly misled residents about the quality of their public water supply must refrain from using deceptive advertisements to promote the sale of expensive home water filter systems, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.
The Assurance of Discontinuances, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, allege that Basement Technologies, Inc., of Canton, and McMahon Plumbing & Heating LLC, of Hyde Park, violated consumer protection laws by improperly suggesting to consumers – through mailed advertisements and door-to-door flyers – that the water supplied to their homes was not safe, fit and pure to drink.
“We allege this advertising misled residents about the quality of their drinking water that our environmental and public health agencies in the Commonwealth work so hard to protect,” AG Coakley said. “Our office is pleased that these settlements will ensure that these companies follow our consumer laws and stop their deceptive sales tactics.”
“State and local drinking water engineers, scientists and officials work hard to ensure that drinking water in Massachusetts is pure and safe to drink,” said Commissioner David W. Cash of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). “Safe drinking water is provided to more than 6.3 million consumers every day and these types of deceptive practices erode confidence in the excellent quality of public drinking water available across the Commonwealth.”
Under the settlements, the companies must refrain from any advertising for home water filtration systems that misrepresent the fitness for human consumption of the water supplied by any public water system in the Commonwealth. The companies must also comply with the state’s regulatory requirements for reporting water test results to prospective purchasers, including providing customers with the required disclosure form, when performing any drinking water evaluations. MassDEP has comprehensive regulations in place to ensure that public water systems provide water that is deemed safe, fit and pure to drink.
According to the AG’s investigation, Basement Technologies used a marketing campaign called the “Water Quality Awareness Program” to mislead consumers about the quality of the water supplied to their homes. The advertising materials, which included an image nearly identical to the Massachusetts State Seal, made it appear that the testing program was a government-sanctioned effort meant to protect public health. In its marketing campaign, McMahon Plumbing used a photograph of an infected human forearm under the caption “Are you at risk?” to market its home water filter systems, with claims that water tested nearby allegedly detected high levels of chlorine, suggesting that water being supplied to the consumer’s home was harmful. The water filter systems cost as much as $7,000 for a residential installation.
In addition to the injunctive relief, Basement Technologies must pay the Commonwealth $20,000 in costs and penalties. McMahon Plumbing, which is still in business but appears to no longer sell water filter systems, is responsible for paying up to $2,000 in costs and penalties, half of which may be forgiven if the company remains in compliance with the terms of the settlement.
This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Goldberg of AG Coakley’s Environmental Protection Division, with assistance from Yvette DePeiza, Director of MassDEP’s Drinking Water Program, and Marielle Stone, Deputy Director of the Bureau of Resource Protection in the Central Regional Office at MassDEP.
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