"Eco" to be added to EU "black list"
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On the way to making Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, the EU Commission wants to further strengthen consumer rights. To this end, it has drawn up proposals to ensure "that consumers can make informed and environmentally friendly decisions when buying products" in order to be able to consume more sustainably, as it announced at the end of March.
To this end, the Commission is proposing, among other things, to add more practices to the existing list of prohibited unfair commercial practices. Accordingly, the so-called "black list" should in the future also include general, vague statements about the environmental properties of a product that cannot be proven. As examples, the Commission mentions general environment-related statements such as "environmentally friendly", "eco" or "green", which, according to the Commission, "falsely create the impression of excellent environmental performance".
Furthermore, the Commission also wants to put on the index "environmental claims about the entire product if these actually only concern parts of the product" as well as "the labeling with a voluntary sustainability seal that is neither based on a third-party testing procedure nor originates from public authorities." The omission of claims about characteristics that specifically limit a product's lifespan is also to be included in the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive in the future.
Consumers contributed to the proposals
With its proposed amendments, the Commission aims to ensure legal certainty for retailers in addition to consumer rights. At the same time, it wants to ensure that greenwashing and the premature end of life of products (obsolescence) are counteracted. The authority's calculation: "If it is ensured that environmental claims are honest, consumers will be able to choose products that are actually better for the environment than those of other competitors. This will encourage competition for more sustainable products and reduce negative environmental impacts."
In developing its proposals, the EU Commission said it consulted more than 12,000 consumers as well as businesses, consumer experts and national authorities. One finding: "Testing the reliability of environmental claims about products is the biggest hurdle to environmental change in the eyes of consumers."
The proposals will now be discussed in the Council and the European Parliament. Once member states adopt them and transpose them into national law, consumers will be entitled to redress in the event of infringements, including by means of collective redress procedures under the Directive on representative actions.