Swiss consumers have little protection from misleading environmental promises

Unsubstantiated claims regarding the climate friendliness of certain products and whitewashing mislead consumers. For Consumer Protection, one thing is clear: the federal government must issue clear rules for climate advertising claims.

More and more products and services are being advertised with so-called green claims, criticizes Swiss Consumer Protection. For example, cell phone subscriptions are said to be «climate neutral», heating oil «CO2 neutral», or even children's porridge «climate positive». This inflationary spread of statements about the climate effectiveness of products and services makes the consumer protection skeptical: «In fact, an analysis of several examples shows that many advertising claims are exaggerated or even baseless. They are neither explained in more detail nor proven. This misleads consumers», explains Sara Stalder, head of Consumer Protection.

Eleven complaints filed

For this reason, Consumer Protection has filed eleven complaints against advertising statements made by eight companies: eight complaints on the basis of the Unfair Competition Act (UCA) with SECO and three complaints with the Swiss Fair Trading Commission (SLK) for unfair advertising. In all cases, Consumer Protection demands decisive action by the respective bodies.

CO2 compensation is controversial

As the consumer protection further explains, the climate promises could often only be achieved through CO2 compensation, i.e. through projects at another location that prevent CO2 emissions. However, the respective company itself does nothing, but pays so that others compensate vicariously. In other words, climate protection becomes the task of others. «Compensation is preferably made abroad, for example in the form of projects that protect forests from deforestation or provide new types of cook stoves», Sara Stalder explains further. However, the impact of the projects is hardly comprehensible for consumers. In addition, forest projects have come under massive criticism: various scientific studies have concluded that forest projects make little difference to the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.

Europe is moving forward - what is Switzerland doing?

The Federal Council shows little interest in pushing ahead with a regulation on green claims, the consumer protection group continues. This is shown by the response to two motions in parliament, it said. «Unlike Switzerland, some neighboring countries have already adopted guidelines to prevent greenwashing. The European Parliament even wants to fundamentally ban the use of slogans such as CO2-neutral or carbon neutral in the future, as these are often misunderstood by consumers and are therefore misleading. Switzerland must set an example and put a stop to the flood of meaningless but deceptive claims», demands Sara Stalder. For her it is clear: «There is no reason why Swiss consumers should be less well protected from misleading environmental claims than European consumers. Legislators must finally act.»