ACCC to conduct ‘internet sweeps’ targeting greenwashing

ACCC to conduct "internet sweeps", targets greenwashing
(Source: Bigstock)

‘Internet sweeps’ have been organised by the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) to identify companies making environmental and sustainability claims they cannot back up – also termed ‘greenwashing’ – and platforms publishing misleading reviews.

The sweeps will commence during the coming weeks as part of the consumer watchdog’s compliance and enforcement priorities as it clamps down on deceptive advertising and marketing practices. 

“As consumers become increasingly interested in purchasing sustainable products, there are growing concerns that some businesses are falsely promoting their environmental or green credentials,” said Delia Rickard, deputy chair, at the ACCC. 

“Misleading claims about products or services undermine consumer trust and confidence in the market.”

The consumer watchdog said it would review at least 200 company websites for misleading environmental claims across sectors, including energy, household products and appliances, transportation, food and beverage, and clothing.

Rickard added that the sweep is part of the organisation’s core focus on actively monitoring “greenwashing” and helping inform businesses what steps they can take to improve the integrity of their claims. 

“The ACCC won’t hesitate to take enforcement action where we see that consumers are being misled or deceived by green claims,” she continued.

Aside from investigating the companies’ online marketing claims, the consumer watchdog will also conduct a separate sweep to target misleading reviews posted on businesses’ websites, social media accounts and third-party platforms. 

Influencers in the spotlight

Misleading advertising by influencers will also be considered in a second sweep, which will focus on identifying posts that fail to disclose sponsorship.

The ACCC would also assess at least 100 companies in the initial review sweep, targeting sectors in which consumers commonly rely on reviews, including household, electronics, fashion, beauty, food and restaurants, travel services, sport, and health products.

Rickard said the commission would identify sites or platforms where there is a pattern of misleading reviews that could potentially harm consumers.

“Both positive and negative reviews and testimonials – including those that are incentivised – can be false or misleading, particularly if they are presented as impartial but are not,” she said.

The ACCC said it would publish the findings of the sweeps once they are collated and analysed. 

In addition, it will be followed up with compliance, education, and enforcement, and improve consumer awareness to help them make more informed purchasing decisions.

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