Reliable environmental statements to protect consumers
The Commission is proposing to update EU consumer rules to further raise awareness of environmental change. Among other things, protection against misleading information is to be strengthened.
By updating consumer rights, consumers should be better protected from unreliable or false environmental claims in the future.
The proposed revisions to EU consumer law have already been announced in the Circular Economy Action Plan. They aim to reflect the necessary changes in consumer behaviour by ensuring that consumers are better protected against business practices that prevent them from buying sustainable products.
In preparing the proposal, the Commission consulted more than 12,000 citizens, as well as businesses, experts and national authorities. Testing the reliability of environmental claims about products was cited as the biggest hurdle to environmental change. Studies also show that consumers are confronted with unfair business practices that actively prevent them from choosing sustainable products.
To address this, the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive is now to be amended. Firstly, the list of product characteristics about which traders must not mislead consumers will be extended. In addition, practices are to be added (which, after individual examination, have been found to be misleading), such as statements about future environmental performance without clear, objective and verifiable commitments and targets, and without an independent monitoring system. In addition, further practices are to be added to the existing list of prohibited unfair business practices (the so-called "black list").
These practices include:
general, vague statements about environmental characteristics, where the excellent environmental performance of the product or the trader cannot be proven. Examples include general environmental claims such as
- "eco-friendly", "eco" or "green", which falsely give the impression of excellent environmental performance
- environmental claims about the whole product, when in fact these only concern parts of the product
- labelling with a voluntary sustainability label that is neither based on a third-party verification procedure nor originates from public authorities.
These changes aim to ensure legal certainty on the one hand, but also to counteract greenwashing of products. The aim is to promote competition for more sustainable products and to further reduce negative impacts on the environment.
The Commission's proposals will now be discussed in the Council and the European Parliament. Once Member States adopt these proposals and transpose them into national law, citizens will be entitled to redress for infringements, including through collective redress procedures under the Directive on representative actions.
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