Final approval for the European directive on greenwashing, requiring greater information to consumers

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The European Council has approved the directive on greenwashing, which will ban commercial practices such as greenwashing and early obsolescence, together with increasing the information that will have to be given to consumers. The new law has yet to be published in the Official Journal of the European Union.

Final approval was obtained for the new directive on greenwashing after the European Council gave the green light to the text proposed by the European Parliament on February 20.

The new law amends Directive 2005/29/EC (on unfair commercial practices) and Directive 2011/83/EU (on consumer rights) to increase consumer protection against unfair commercial practices and enhance information on the environmental and social characteristics of products and services.

To achieve this aim, new rules are introduced to combat greenwashing, in the form of misleading or unverified claims on the environmental or social impact of products or services. Among other measures, it adds commercial practices to the list of those already considered unfair in any circumstance. Examples include a ban on generic environmental claims not supported by excellent recognized environmental performance, claims about the entire product or the trader’s entire business when it concerns only a certain aspect of the product or of the trader’s business, or displaying a sustainability label that is not based on a certification scheme or not established by public authorities.

Fight against planned obsolescence

The new directive also tackles the issue of early obsolescence, involving deliberately planning or designing a product with a limited lifespan after a certain period or after a predetermined intensity of use. In keeping with this, the directive states that practices such as withholding information from the consumer about the negative impact a software update will have on the functioning of digital goods, presenting a software update as necessary when it only enhances functionality or inducing the consumer to replace or replenish the consumables of a good earlier than necessary will in all circumstances be considered unfair.

Also, traders are required to provide consumers with pre-contractual information about durability, reparability and the availability of updates on products, as well as on the existence and length of the commercial guarantees provided by the producer. And to assist consumers’ understanding, a harmonized notice and a harmonized label are required which must be visibly displayed to remind consumers of the existence of the legal guarantee of conformity and to identify the products that benefit from a commercial guarantee that the product will last for more than two years.

This is how the directive contributes to the goal in the European Green Deal of enabling buyers to make more sustainable decisions and reduce the risk of greenwashing through reliable, comparable and verifiable information. It also seeks to contribute to the proper functioning of the internal market, based on a high level of consumer protection across the EU.

Following its approval by the Council, the directive will then need to be signed and published in the Official Journal of the European Union, before coming into force 20 days after its publication date. Member states will have 24 months running from publication of the directive in which to transpose it, and their respective provisions will have to come into force within 30 months after its publication.