A presentation by Osborne Clarke’s Stephen Groom at a recent “Green Marketing Compliance Summit” in Chicago reported the results of the firm’s Euro survey on state green claims controls and their effectiveness. Catch the survey report (but please forgive Stephen’s greenhouse gas emissions for the trip).
Who: Most EU member states
When: May 2011
Where: the EU
Law stated as at: 6 June 2011
For a presentation by marketinglaw editor Stephen Groom at a "Green Marketing Summit" in Chicago, Osborne Clarke conducted a mini survey across its European network of advertising law experts.
The survey asked two key questions:
- please indicate any specific controls over "green" or "environmental" claims ("Green Claims") in advertising put in place by your country's government or advertising regulators
- please express your view as to whether the existing controls in your country over Green Claims in advertising are effective.
The first question was asked in light of the fact that to date, although it published "Guidelines for Making and Assessing Environmental Claims" in December 2000, Brussels has neither updated this document nor shown any appetite for introducing specific EU-wide controls over Green Claims.
Following on from this, the second question was prompted in particular by recent concerns expressed by such as Transparency International and Consumer Focus as to whether Europe/UK needed to do more to crack down on Green Claims in advertising across Europe or risk public scepticism reaching such a level that any such claims, true or false, would simply not be believed and become counter-productive.
Responses were received from all EU states except Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia and Malta.
The headline findings were as follows:
- only 8 of the states had specific Green Claims controls or guidelines in place
- only six EU states were particularly active in controlling Green Claims in advertising were Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland and the UK
- lawyers in only 8 of the 23 countries that responded felt that their country's controls and enforcement mechanisms in respect of Green Claims were working effectively.
Why this matters:
In its 2009 "Guidance on the Implementation/Application of Directive 2005/29/EC on Unfair Commercial Practices", the European Commission included an almost disproportionately large section focusing on how the Directive might be wheeled out to control misleading environmental claims in advertising.
The section concluded, in a tone suggesting frustration that enforcement in this area had not been optimal to date:
"Self regulation cannot be used as a substitute for legal action. It is the Member States' responsibility to ensure adequate and effective means to combat unfair commercial practices in general and misleading environmental claims in particular."
The survey findings indicate that these concerns were well-founded and suggest that the Commission would do well to revisit this area if Green Claims are to remain credible to consumers.
For a copy of the full survey report please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.