Commission proposes new consumer rights and greenwashing ban

Today, the Commission is proposing to update EU consumer protection rules to give consumers the opportunity to take action to go green. The updated rules will allow consumers to make informed and environmentally friendly choices when purchasing their products. Consumers will have the right to know how long a product is designed to last and, if so, how it can be repaired. In addition, the rules will enhance consumer protection against misleading or false environmental claims by banning greenwashing and practices that mislead consumers about a product’s sustainability.

Mme Vera YurovaVice President for Values ​​and Transparency, said: “We support consumers who are now looking for more durable and maintainable products. We must ensure that their voluntary approach is not hampered by misleading information. With this offering, we are giving them powerful new tools to make informed choices and make our products and our economy more sustainable.”

Mr Didier ReindersCommissioner of Justice added: “If we don’t start consuming more sustainably, we won’t meet our European Green Deal targets – it’s that simple. While most consumers are willing to contribute, we are also seeing an increase in greenwashing and early obsolescence. To become real participants in the ecological transition, consumers must have access to useful information to make rational choices. They must also be protected from unfair commercial practices that take advantage of their interest in sustainable products.”

A new right to information about the durability and maintainability of products

The Commission proposes to amend the Consumer Rights Directive to require traders to provide consumers with information on product durability and maintainability:

  • durability : consumers should be informed about the guaranteed durability of products. If the manufacturer of a consumer product provides a commercial durability warranty for more than two years, the seller must provide this information to the consumer. For products that use energy, the seller must also inform consumers when the manufacturer has not provided information about the commercial durability guarantee;
  • repair and update: the seller must also provide relevant information about the repair, such as the maintainability index (if it exists), or other relevant information provided by the manufacturer, such as the availability of spare parts or a repair manual. With regard to smart devices, digital content and services, the consumer should also be informed about software updates provided by the manufacturer.

Manufacturers and retailers decide on the most appropriate way to provide this information to the consumer, either on the packaging or in the product description on the website. In any case, they will be provided before purchase, in a clear and understandable manner.

Greenwashing ban and planned obsolescence

The Commission is also proposing several amendments to the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (UCPD). First, the list of product characteristics about which the trader cannot mislead consumers has been expanded to include the environmental and social impacts of the product, as well as its durability and maintainability. New methods are then added to the list that are considered misleading after an individual assessment, such as environmental claims regarding future environmental performance without clear, objective and verifiable commitments and targets and without independent systemic controls.

Finally, the Commission is amending the UCPD to add new practices to the existing “black list” of prohibited unfair commercial practices. These new practices include:

  • failure to report features introduced to limit asset longevityfor example, software designed to block or restrict the operation of an asset after a certain period of time;
  • make general and vague environmental claims when the excellent environmental performance of a product or professional cannot be demonstrated. Examples of such general environmental claims are “environmentally friendly”, “environmentally friendly” or “green”, which falsely suggest or give the impression of superior environmental performance;
  • submit an environmental claim that refers to a product as a whole, when in fact it refers to only one of its characteristics;
  • display voluntary sustainability labels which is not based on a certification system or has not been created by government bodies;
  • failure to inform the consumer that the product is intended for a limited function if he uses consumables, spare parts or accessories that are not provided by the original manufacturer.

These changes are intended to provide professionals with legal certainty and to make it easier to enforce the law in cases of greenwashing and early obsolescence. What’s more, if the environmental claims are true, consumers will be able to choose products that are actually better for the environment than their competitors. Competition will promote more sustainable products, which will reduce the negative impact on the environment.

Next steps

The Commission’s proposals will now be considered by the Council and the European Parliament. Once they are adopted and then transposed into the national law of the Member States, consumers will be entitled to redress in the event of a breach, including through the collective redress procedure provided for in the Directive on representational claims.

Context

Proposed amendments to EU consumer protection legislation have been announced in the New Consumer Agenda and Circular Economy Action Plan. The changes aim to support the changes needed in consumer behavior to achieve the climate and environmental goals of the European Green Deal by ensuring that consumers have better information about the durability and maintainability of products, and by protecting them from business practices that prevent them from making more rational purchases.

To develop the proposal, the Commission consulted with more than 12,000 consumers, as well as businesses, consumer protection experts and national authorities. Verification of product environmental claims was found to be a major barrier for consumers to make an environmental transition. About half of those surveyed said they were willing to pay more for a product that would last longer without needing to be repaired.

Research also shows that consumers face unfair trade practices that actively prevent them from making rational choices. Early product obsolescence, misleading greenwash claims, and opaque and unreliable labels or sustainability information tools are common practices.

The proposal is part of the European Commission’s broader goal of becoming the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, which can only be achieved if consumers consume and businesses produce more sustainably. This proposal will also be complemented by other initiatives, including the Sustainable Foods Initiative (also adopted today) and upcoming initiatives on the obligation to substantiate environmental claims and redress rights (public consultation on which is open until April 5, 2022) . The upcoming “Right to Repair” initiative will aim to encourage post-purchase repair of goods, while today’s initiative, which aims to empower consumers to make the ecological transition, imposes an obligation to provide pre-purchase repairability information and protect against unfair practices. associated with premature obsolescence. .https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiativ…

On February 23, 2022, the European Commission also adopted its proposal for a Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive, which sets clear and balanced rules for businesses to respect human rights and the environment and behave in a sustainable and responsible manner. In parallel, the Commission is also working to support businesses in the context of the ecological transition, including through voluntary initiatives such as the commitment to sustainable consumption.

Know more

Proposal for a directive to enable consumers to act in favor of a green transition through better protection against bad practices and better information, and annex

Fact Sheet on Empowering Consumers to Act for a Green Transition

Webpage on Empowering Consumers to Act for Green Transition

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