EU to ban greenwashing and improve information on product durability

Alina Oprea
The European Parliament and Council have reached a provisional agreement on new rules to ban misleading advertisements and provide consumers with better product information. Generic environmental claims and other misleading marketing tricks will be banned. Ban will also apply to commercial communications about goods that contain a design feature introduced to limit product durability. Only sustainability labels based on approved certification schemes or established by public authorities will be allowed. Guarantee information to be more visible and a new guarantee extension label to be introduced.

The agreement updates the existing EU list of banned commercial practices and adds to it several problematic marketing habits related to greenwashing and early obsolescence of goods. The aim of the new rules is to protect consumers from misleading practices and help them make better purchasing choices.

Negotiators from Parliament and Council agreed to proscribe the following:

  • generic environmental claims, e.g. “environmentally friendly”, “natural”, “biodegradable”, “climate neutral” or “eco”, without proof of recognized excellent environmental performance relevant to the claim;
  • commercial communications about a good with a feature that limits its durability if information is available on the feature and its effects on the durability;
  • claims based on emissions offsetting schemes that a product has a neutral, reduced, or positive impact on the environment;
  • sustainability labels not based on approved certification schemes or established by public authorities;
  • durability claims in terms of usage time or intensity under normal conditions, if not proven;
  • prompting the consumer to replace consumables, such as printer ink cartridges, earlier than strictly necessary;
  • presenting software updates as necessary even if they only enhance functionality features;
  • presenting goods as repairable when they are not.

MEPs insisted on making guarantee information more visible, as many people are not aware that all goods enjoy at least a two-year guarantee in the EU. The Commission is also tasked with designing a new label for producers willing to highlight the quality of their goods by extending the guarantee period free of charge.

“We have achieved an excellent deal for consumers. 60% of European consumers are not even aware a legal guarantee comes with all products. That changes today, with a reminder to be present in every shop in the EU and also in some cases on the packaging. Also, a new extended guarantee label will show clearly which products last longer, so it will be easier to buy more durable products. We have also negotiated a strong stance on early obsolescence. We shouldn't advertise products that fail too early. In addition to that, we are clearing the chaos of environmental claims, which will now have to be substantiated, and claims based on emissions offsetting will be banned”, said, after the deal, Parliament's rapporteur Biljana Borzan (S&D, HR).

In order to become law, the provisional deal will now have to get the final OK from both the Parliament and the Council. The vote by MEPs is expected to take place in November. When the directive comes into force, member states will have 24 months to incorporate the new rules into their law.

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Green Forum  |  28 February, 2024 at 7:00 AM
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