Friday 17 September 2021

Consumer watchdog gets tough on misleading sustainability claims


The Dutch consumers’ authority ACM has launched investigations into misleading sustainability claims made by 60 energy firms, 70 clothing firms and 40 dairy product companies, ordering revisions and threatening hefty fines.

A total of 170 businesses have been invited to take a critical look at their sustainability claims, ACM chief Edwin van Houten said in a statement.

‘We are starting with these three sectors because, for consumers, the aspect of sustainability plays a major role in their purchase decisions in these sectors. Consumers must be able to have confidence in sustainability claims. And businesses with honest claims should not have to face unfair competition from businesses that mislead consumers using misleading claims,’ he said.

One misleading claim highlighted by the agency was made by an energy firm which told consumers that ‘the majority of our green power is generated in the Netherlands’. However, the power disclosure label revealed it to be no more than 20%, the ACM said.

Another energy firm must look again at its claim that its performance in the area of energy transition is ‘the best’, while not providing any basis for a comparison.

The ACM found that the clothing sector is too free with claims that a ‘T-shirt is made from organic cotton’ while only 50% of the garment is actually made from the material. They also bandy about the term ‘sustainable choice’ without explaining what makes the option sustainable, the organisation said.

Dairy producers have also been told to clarify their claims, for instance on the sustainability benefits of generating their own power or misleading CO2 reductions.

The ACM is urging the companies to keep to the rules it has set out for making sustainability claims. Further checks will be made from June and if companies are still found to mislead the public they can be fined up to €900,000 per violation or a percentage of their turnover.

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