EU Commission aims to tackle greenwashing in new consumer agenda

The Commission wants to give customers more information to choose sustainable products [chat_44 / Flickr]

Avoiding greenwashing and providing customers with more information about the sustainability of the products they buy is a key part of the Commission’s new consumer agenda, launched on Friday (13 November).

The agenda will support the Green Deal and the Circular Economy Action Plan, which aims to halve municipal waste by 2030, by enabling consumers to more easily spend money on green products.

The agenda lays out a vision for consumer policy until 2025 and tackles five areas, including environmental aspects and digitalisation, to help consumers take an active role in the transition to a sustainable economy.

A survey conducted across 11 countries earlier this year found that EU consumers are willing to change eating habits for instance, but are stopped by lacking information, high prices and the limited availability of sustainable food.

“European consumers are at the core of a global change. Their actions can make a significant difference. Consumers need to be empowered to make sustainable choices and be reassured that their rights will be protected in all circumstances,” said Didier Reynders, the EU’s justice commissioner.

In 2021, the Commission will present a proposal to provide consumers with better information on sustainability to avoid greenwashing and promote circular products. It also seeks to encourage pledges from companies supporting sustainable consumption.

“We want to empower consumers to play their role in the green and digital transitions. At the same time we must ensure that our rules to protect consumer rights remain up to speed with today’s digital reality – especially through vigorous enforcement and increased responsibility of online platforms,” said Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová.

The Commission also wants to tackle dark patterns and hidden advertising online, which remove consumer’s right to make informed choices.

“Consumers face enormous transformations because of the digitalisation of our societies and the consequences of climate change,” said Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation.

The group said an EU consumer agenda is urgently needed, particularly given the green transition and the weaknesses COVID has shown in customer protection, with more consumers becoming victims of online scams during the pandemic.

“Just as the second COVID-19 wave is hitting the EU hard, consumers need reassurance that the EU and national governments improve protections that people can rely on. The consumer agenda is the right road map for this to happen,” said Goyens.

The agenda focuses on five areas: green transition, digital transformation, effective enforcement of consumer rights, vulnerable groups and international cooperation.

“Lack of enforcement is the Achilles heel of EU and national consumer policy. One way to improve this would be for national authorities to work better together with consumer groups,” said Goyens.

(Edited by Frédéric Simon)

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