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What counts as deceptive environmental marketing claims?

As concern about the environment heightens, it is becoming increasingly popular for companies to market themselves as environmentally friendly or as helping the environment in some way. Many companies use this type of marketing to take advantage of the "green dollar": the favorability that consumers have toward green companies. However, unfortunately some marketing campaigns and product information contains misleading information and downright lies.

What information does a marketer owe to consumers?

Marketers should not be making general claims about how their products affect the environment without being able to back it up.

This includes claims being made about carbon offsets, which are becoming more popular. If marketers make promises about carbon offsets, they need to disclose if these carbon offsets will not occur within the first two years of purchase.

If a product has been labeled "compostable," it must be proven that the item will degrade into usable compost at roughly the same rate as other compostable materials.

When a product makes a claim to be free of a certain substance, they might be proven to be deceptive. This could be true if substances present in the product pose a similar health or toxicity risk. Similarly, the "free-of" claim could be deceptive if the substance is not associated with the type of product in question. In this way, marketers are trying to gain a competitive advantage through deception.

There are many ways that marketers can be deceptive about the environmental impact of their products. If you think that you may have been a victim of false advertising, it is best to do research into the specifics of your circumstance. An attorney can help you learn more about your legal options.

Source: FTC.gov, "Green Guides: environmental marketing claims," accessed Nov. 08, 2017

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