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Green marketing warning

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Companies that don’t back up their green marketing claims with evidence could face prosecution by the ACCC.

ACCC commissioner John Martin says many people incorrectly believed green marketing referred solely to the promotion or advertising of products with environmental characteristics.

“Terms like ‘phosphate-free’, ‘recyclable’, ‘eco-friendly’, ‘ozone friendly’ and ‘environmentally friendly’ are terms consumers have in the past associated with green marketing,” he says.

However, these claims were now being applied to consumer and industrial goods, services, and corporate and government activities. Companies are now making claims such as “carbon neutral”, “carbon offset” and “carbon footprint”.

According to Martin, companies found making misleading advertisements would be issued with a court-enforceable undertaking, forcing them to stop the marketing scheme, undertake corrective advertising and possibly pay compensation.

In the second instance, company directors would be taken to the Federal Court and prosecuted, Martin says.

Complaints received by the watchdog have increased more than 10-fold in the past four years from four cases in 2002-03 to 44 in 2006-07 and, according to Martin, there are currently “some companies on our radar”.

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