Stephens Lawyers and Consultants dicuss 'green marketing'
An increase in green marketing has led to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) cracking down on unsubstantiated and/or misleading ‘green’ claims.
‘Green washing’ in marketing enables advertisers to capitalise on the growing consumer market for environmentally friendly products and services.
However, it is essential claims regarding environmental sustainability, energy and water efficiency, recycling, or the impact of animals on the natural environment, are accurate and verifiable to avoid breaching provisions in the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 in The Australian Consumer Law and/or under Environmental Claims in the Advertising and Marketing Code.
Under Australian Consumer Law, the ACCC has wide enforcement powers to combat ‘green washing’ claims and has stepped up prosecutions in this area.
A general prohibition in section 18 of the Australian Consumer Law prohibits misleading or deceptive conduct while section 29 prohibits the making of false or misleading representations about specific aspects of goods and services.
Anyone suffering loss or damage because of the contravention of sections 18 and 29 can take court proceedings and the court may grant injunctive relief and award damages for the loss or damage suffered. The ACCC and State regulators may choose to take further action against the business in court. Under recent changes, the ACCC and State regulators can also issue substantiation notices, infringement notices and public warning notices.
Significant penalties can be imposed by courts for contravention of section 28, up to $1.1M for companies and $220,000 for individuals.
Green claims are also regulated by the Australian Association of National Advertisers' (ANNA) via Environmental Claims in the Advertising and Marketing Code. The voluntary code provides a set of guiding principles to assist advertisers when making green claims.
Complaints about breaches of the Code are adjudicated by the Advertising Standards Board (ASB). The ASB can request that a business or advertiser remove or amend any marketing material found to be in breach of the Code.