According to the European Commission and National Consumer Authorities, about 42% of the claims were exaggerated, false or deceptive and could qualify as unfair commercial practices under EU rules. The data was shared as the results of their annual ‘sweep’ of websites.
Greenwashing has increased as consumers increasingly seek to buy environmentally sound products. The point where websites take advantage of consumers looking to purchase environmentally sound products. This year, for the first time ever, the sweep focused on “greenwashing”, the practice by which companies claim they are doing more for the environment than they actually are. The “sweep” analyzed green online claims from various business sectors such as garments, cosmetics, and household equipment.
The Commission and consumer authorities examined 344 seemingly dubious claims in more detail and found that:
– In more than half of the cases, the trader did not provide sufficient information for consumers to judge the claim’s accuracy.
– In 37% of cases, the claim included vague and general statements such as “conscious”, “eco-friendly”, “sustainable,” which aimed to convey the unsubstantiated impression to consumers that a product had no negative impact on the environment.
– Moreover, in 59% of cases, the trader had not provided easily accessible evidence to support its claim.
Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said, “More and more people want to live a green life and I applaud companies that strive to produce eco-friendly products or services. However, there are also unscrupulous traders out there, who pull the wool over consumers’ eyes with vague, false or exaggerated claims.”
A potential amount to an unfair commercial practice under the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (UCPD) may be charged. National authorities will now contact the companies concerned to point out the issues detected and to ensure that these are rectified where necessary. The sweep findings will also feed into the impact assessment to be prepared for a new legislative proposal to empower consumers for the green transition.