EU Commission takes action against 20 airlines for greenwashing

Green Forum
In response to an alert from the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), the European Commission and EU consumer authorities (Network of Consumer Protection Cooperation - CPC - Authorities) have reached out to 20 airlines regarding potentially misleading green claims. They have issued letters, urging the airlines to align their practices with EU consumer law within a 30-day period.

Led by the Belgian Directorate General for Economic Inspection, the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets, the Norwegian Consumer Authority, and the Spanish Directorate General of Consumer Affairs, the CPC network has honed in on claims made by airlines regarding the offsetting of CO2 emissions from flights through climate projects or sustainable fuels, which consumers can contribute to via additional fees. Authorities are concerned that these practices may breach Articles 5, 6, and 7 of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, and airlines are yet to substantiate these claims with scientific evidence.

Key aspects of the action include:

Identifying various potentially misleading practices among the 20 airlines, such as:

  • Suggesting that paying an additional fee for climate projects or sustainable fuels can fully or partially offset CO2 emissions.
  • Using terms like "sustainable aviation fuels" (SAF) without clear environmental justifications.
  • Employing terms like "green," "sustainable," or "responsible" without adequate substantiation.
  • Claiming progress towards net-zero greenhouse gas emissions without clear commitments, targets, or independent monitoring.
  • Offering CO2 emission calculators without sufficient scientific proof or transparency.
  • Providing flight CO2 emission comparisons without adequate information on comparison criteria.
  • Next steps involve the airlines responding within 30 days with proposed measures to address concerns under EU consumer law. The European Commission will then hold meetings with the CPC network and airlines to discuss proposed solutions and oversee their implementation. Failure to address concerns may lead to further enforcement actions, including sanctions, by CPC authorities.

This action seeks to ensure alignment of air travel sector practices with EU consumer legislation, promoting transparency and accuracy in environmental marketing claims.

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Green Forum  |  20 June, 2024 at 8:04 AM