ACCC launches “greenwashing” online crackdown

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recently announced it is conducting two internet sweeps to identify misleading environmental and sustainability marketing claims and fake or misleading online business reviews.

Around 200 companies are on the ACCC’s hit list with the review looking to identify misleading environmental claims across a range of targeted sectors including energy, vehicles, household products and appliances, food and drink packaging, cosmetics, clothing and footwear.

“As consumers become increasingly interested in purchasing sustainable products, there are growing concerns that some businesses are falsely promoting their environmental or green credentials. Misleading claims about products or services undermine consumer trust and confidence in the market,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

“This sweep forms a core part of our work in actively monitoring for ‘greenwashing’ in the market and will help inform what steps businesses can take to improve the integrity of their environmental claims.”

Rickard said the ACCC, “won’t hesitate to take enforcement action where we see that consumers are being misled or deceived by green claims”.

At the same time, the ACCC is also targeting fake or misleading online reviews and testimonials.

“This will be the first of a series of smaller-scale sweeps focusing on deceptive practices in the digital marketplace. The sweep will target misleading reviews posted to business’ websites, Facebook pages and third-party review platforms. Misleading advertising by influencers on social media will be considered in a second sweep, which will focus on identifying posts that fail to clearly disclose advertising or sponsorship,” Rickard said.

“Unfortunately, consumers are facing an ever-increasing range of manipulative marketing techniques designed to exploit or pressure them, due in part to the huge number of online information sources available. Consumers often rely on reviews and testimonials when making purchases, but misleading reviews can be harmful.”

The ACCC will publish the findings of the sweeps once they are collated and analysed.

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