Nowadays, an increasing number of consumers tend to buy more responsibly. For this reason, even without substantial efforts toward sustainability, some companies adopt so-called greenwashing practices to make their products or services more appealing to these consumers. For example, these practices might consist in adding green labels – such as “organic”, “bio”, “sustainable”, or “natural”, not supported by adequate initiatives, with the only scope to alter consumers’ choices.
By amending the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (UCPD), the European Commission aims to help consumers make sustainable choices. The proposal introduces stricter requirements for green claims and new prohibited business practices such as:
- No information about features that limit the product’s durability.
- Generic or vague environmental claims with no evidence, such as “green” or “eco”.
- Own sustainability labels not based on a recognised third-party verification procedure or established by public authorities.
- No information about a product’s limited functionality when used with spare parts or accessories not provided by the original producer.
Companies that make unfair green claims will incur significant risks such as:
- Fines up to 4 per cent of the annual turnover.
- Litigation and regulatory proceedings that competitors, consumer associations and institutions could start.
- Damage claims by individual customers as well as mass claims.
- Confiscation of profits.
- Brand reputation.
The Council and the European Parliament will discuss the EC proposals to amend the UCPD, and a final agreement is expected by the end of 2023. Each Member state must transpose the directive into national law 18 months after adoption. Therefore the new rules are expected to be in force from early 2026.