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Australian consumer watchdog targets ‘greenwashing’

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Australia’s consumer watchdog has started what it calls “two internet sweeps” designed to identify misleading environmental and sustainability marketing claims, and punish perpetrator companies accordingly.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), an independent Commonwealth statutory authority, says it will review hundreds of company websites for dodgy claims that fit the term ‘greenwashing’.

This cross-sector plan will include at least some car brands – but we must stress that none have yet been mentioned specifically, and all images used here are purely illustrative.

“At least 200 company websites will be reviewed in the sweep for misleading environmental claims across a range of targeted sectors including energy, vehicles, household products and appliances, food and drink packaging, cosmetics, clothing and footwear,” the ACCC said.

This forms a core part of the ACCC’s compliance and enforcement priorities for 2022-23, it added.

“As consumers become increasingly interested in purchasing sustainable products, there are growing concerns that some businesses are falsely promoting their environmental or green credentials,” said ACCC Deputy chair Delia Rickard.

“Misleading claims about products or services undermine consumer trust and confidence in the market.

“This sweep forms a core part of our work in actively monitoring for ‘greenwashing’ in the market and will help inform what steps businesses can take to improve the integrity of their environmental claims.

“In looking at claims we are concerned about what the ordinary consumer will understand the claim to mean. The ACCC won’t hesitate to take enforcement action where we see that consumers are being misled or deceived by green claims.”

Without divulging specifics, it seems likely that the ACCC’s look at selected car brands could focus on claims around hybrid performance, EV range and charge capabilities, and claims around running costs.

Concurrently, the ACCC will conduct a separate internet sweep targeting fake or misleading online reviews and testimonials, billed as “deceptive practices in the digital marketplace”.

The ACCC will publish the findings of the sweeps once they are collated and analysed, it claims.

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