Consumer interest is of paramount importance: Secretary Department of Consumer Affairs, Government of India
Department of Consumer Affairs and Central Consumer Protection Authority preparing Guidelines for “Prevention of Greenwashing by the companies with a view to protect consumer interest.
Guidelines will be applicable to all whose service is availed for the advertisement of goods or services
Consumer’s interest is of paramount importance, said Shri Rohit Kumar Singh, Secretary Department of Consumer Affairs and Chief Commissioner of Central Consumer Protection Authority while chairing the 3rd meeting of committee to prepare Guideline for “Protection of consumer against Greenwashing” here.
The Secretary highlighted the need for clarity, specifically in addressing certain aspects related to advertisements of environmental claims. He further stated that Department firmly believes in safeguarding the rights of consumers and ensuring no false or misleading advertisement is made of any goods or services which contravenes the provisions of Consumer Protection Act, 2019.
The draft guideline which was circulated with committee members was discussed in the committee meeting. Guideline define the “Greenwashing” and “Environmental claims”. The Guidelines will be applicable to all advertisements or service provider, product seller, advertiser, or an advertising agency or endorser whose service is availed for the advertisement of such goods or services.
The Guidelines prescribe various disclosure that would be required to be made by the company making green claims. The various disclosures are:-
All environmental claims shall be accurate and disclose all material information either in the relevant advertisement or communication or by inserting a QR Code, or any such technology including web link, which will be linked to relevant information.
2.While making disclosures in relation to environmental claims, data from research shall not be cherry picked to highlight only favourable observations while obscuring others that are unfavourable.
3.Any person making an environment related claim should specify whether it refers to the good, manufacturing process, packaging, manner of use of the good or its disposal; or service or the process of rendering the service.
4.All environmental claims shall be backed by verifiable evidence.
5.Comparative environmental claims that compare one product or service to another must be based on verifiable and relevant data that is disclosed to the consumers.
6.Specific environmental claims must be supported by credible certification, reliable scientific evidence, and independent third-party verification to maintain their authenticity.
Guidelines also provide that No person to whom these guidelines apply shall engage in greenwashing and vague terms such as 'green', 'eco-friendly', 'eco-consciousness', 'good for the planet', 'cruelty-free', and similar assertions shall not be used without various disclosures.
The draft guideline provide that aspirational or futuristic environmental claims need to be made with various disclosures. Draft Guidelines also provide Guidance Note for environmental claims with appropriate examples to provide help and guidance to industry.
It was also clarified that penalty for misleading advertisement for Greenwashing by company will be governed as per Consumer Protection Act, 2019 and the Guidelines are just in the nature of clarification to the stakeholders and violations of the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act 2019 shall continue to be governed under the existing provisions of the Consumer Protection Act 2019.
The committee comprised of representatives from National Law University (NLU) Delhi and National Law University (NLU) Ranchi, Ikigai Law firm, Nishit Desai law firm, members of various Voluntary Consumer Organisations (VCO’s), Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Manufacturers Association Information Technology (MAIT), Mumbai Grahak Panchayat, Consumer Voice, Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) Indian Beauty & Hygiene Association (IBHA) .