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EU making steps to outlaw ‘greenwashing’ claims

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European legislators have moved closer to banning adverts that misleadingly promote ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘biodegradable’ or ‘eco’ products.

The European Parliament and Council have reached a provisional agreement on new rules that update the existing EU list of banned commercial practices and adds several marketing habits related to ‘greenwashing’ and the early obsolescence of goods.

The aim is to protect consumers from misleading practices and help them make better purchasing choices. Negotiators have agreed to proscribe:

  • generic environmental claims such as ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘natural’, ‘biodegradable’, ‘climate neutral’ or ‘eco’ without proof of recognised environmental performance relevant to the claim
  • claims based on emissions-offsetting schemes that a product has neutral, reduced or positive impact on the environment
  • sustainability labels not based on approved certification schemes or established by public authorities
  • unproven durability claims for a product in terms of usage time or intensity under normal conditions
  • prompting the consumer to replace consumables, such as printer ink cartridges, earlier than necessary
  • presenting goods as repairable when they are not.

Harmonised label

Under the deal, guarantee information would be more visible and the Commission would be tasked with designing a new label for producers willing to highlight the quality of their goods by extending the guarantee period free of charge.

Parliament’s rapporteur Biljana Borzan called it an excellent deal for consumers. ‘Sixty per cent of European consumers are not even aware a legal guarantee comes with all products. A new extended guarantee label will show clearly which products last longer, so it will be easier to buy more durable products.

‘We are clearing the chaos of environmental claims, which will now have to be substantiated, and claims based on emissions offsetting will be banned.’

The provisional deal has yet to be approved by both Parliament and the Council with MEPs due to vote in November. When the directive comes into force, member states will have two years to incorporate the new rules into their law.

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