Last reviewed 5 February 2021

Around 40% of green claims made online may be misleading consumers, according to recent findings from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

The annual sweep of almost 500 websites, hosted by the International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network (ICPEN) and led by the CMA and The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), found that 4 in 10 websites could be in breach of consumer law.

The survey, which analysed websites offering various products and services that appeal to consumers’ green demands such as clothes, cosmetics and food, revealed evidence of misleading tactics designed to take advantage of ethical spending trends. These included the following.

  • Vague claims and unclear language including terms such as “eco” or “sustainable” or reference to “natural products” without adequate explanation or evidence of the claims.

  • Own brand eco logos and labels not associated with an accredited organisation.

  • Hiding or omitting certain information, such as a product’s pollution levels, to appear more eco-friendly.

UK consumers are safeguarded by The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 which prohibits misleading actions and misleading omissions as unfair commercial practice.

The CMA has warned it may take enforcement action if it finds evidence that businesses are misleading customers with omissions and spurious claims about their environmental track records, the CMA.

Commenting on the latest survey, CMA’s Chief Executive, Dr Andrea Coscelli, said: “Too many websites appear to be pushing misleading claims onto consumers, which means that companies offering products with a genuine environmental benefit are not getting the customers they deserve… Our joint work with other regulators will help us identify the big issues facing consumers and protect people from paying a premium for fake eco-friendly’ products.”

The CMA has confirmed it will publish guidance in the summer supporting businesses in the transition to a low carbon economy, while ensuring that consumers get the information they need.