FTC Cracks Down on False ‘Green’ Claims

October 4, 2012

The Federal Trade Commission is trying to put an end to “greenwashing” through its updated Green Guides for marketers, a guide that was finalized this week that aims to prevent companies from claiming false or deceptive claims over the environmental benefits of their products.

The FTC will now be able to fine or even a file lawsuit against companies who make unfounded claims that their products or service offer an environmental benefit. 

“Our purpose is to make sure consumers that want to buy green products are getting truthful information,” says James Kohn, the associate director of enforcement for the FTC’s bureau of consumer protection.

With the final guidelines, companies that make an environmental claim — such as that a product is “eco friendly” or “green” — now must supply proof of the environmental benefit. The new guidelines apply to numerous products in homes too, from bathroom tiles to countertops, that make “green” claims.

For example, the FTC has been pursuing actions against some window makers that have made claims about the energy savings in their windows. 

“They [the companies] actually said they deliver ‘up to’ 50 percent savings, but most consumers don’t get anywhere near that and the FTC is saying qualifying something with ‘up to’ doesn’t work because most consumers would still see that and assume they’ll get the 50 percent savings,” Chris Cole, a partner in the DC office of law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, told Forbes. 

View the FTC’s finalized guide. 

Source: “FTC Finalizes Green Guides, Puts Greenwashers on Notice,” Forbes (Oct. 1, 2012)