Consumers should use caution when shopping for popular Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs, making sure claims reflect reality.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sued a California-based light bulb manufacturer and its principals to stop them from misleading consumers by exaggerating the light output and life expectancy of its LED bulbs.

The agency filed a complaint charging that since 2008, Lights of America, Inc. has overstated the light output and life expectancy of its LED bulbs on packages and in brochures. The agency also charges that Lights of America misled consumers about how the brightness of its LED bulbs compares to traditional incandescent lights.

Manufacturers have recently begun selling LED bulbs for household use because they are a higher-efficiency, longer-lasting alternative to incandescent and compact fluorescent bulbs. Although the initial price tag may be higher, well-designed and manufactured LED bulbs save on energy costs and last much longer than other types of light bulbs.

Significantly less light

The FTC alleges that in many instances, Lights of Americas LED bulbs produced significantly less light, as measured in lumens, than the company claimed in its promotional materials.

For example, one bulb was promoted as producing 90 lumens of light output, but Lights of Americas own tests showed it produced only 43 lumens.

Also, in many cases, Lights of America deceptively compared the brightness of its LED light bulbs with incandescent bulbs, the FTC alleges. For example, the firm claimed that one of its LED lantern bulbs could replace a 40-watt incandescent bulb. However, while the typical 40-watt incandescent bulb produces about 400 lumens, the Lights of America LED bulb produced only 74 lumens.

Moreover, the FTC complaint states that in many instances, Lights of Americas LED bulbs would not last as long as the companys promotional materials said they would. In one case, for example, the firm said that one of its LED recessed bulbs would last 30,000 hours. Independent tests, however, showed that the bulb would not last as long as claimed because it lost 80 percent of its light output after only 1,000 hours.

In filing the complaint, the FTC is seeking a permanent injunction to stop the defendants allegedly illegal conduct, as well as monetary redress for consumers who bought the deceptively labeled products.