ACCC battles the wave against false ocean plastics claims

by: Katrina Hammon, Partner | Melissa Parmar, Solicitor

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The information in these articles is general information only, is provided free of charge and does not constitute legal or other professional advice. We try to keep the information up to date. However, to the fullest extent permitted by law, we disclaim all warranties, express or implied, in relation to this article - including (without limitation) warranties as to accuracy, completeness and fitness for any particular purpose. Please seek independent advice before acting on any information in this article.

Businesses seeking to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers must ensure their claims can be substantiated. The Australian competition regulator, ACCC, recently began proceedings against Clorox for making false or misleading representations that the GLAD kitchen and garbage bags were partly created with recycled ocean plastic.

The ACCC alleged that Clorox represented that the GLAD kitchen and garbage bags were made up of 50% recycled ocean plastic. The headline ‘ocean plastic’, the wave imagery on the packaging and the use of blue coloured bags created the impression that the bags were made from plastic waste collected from the ocean or sea.

The ACCC investigated and found that the representations were misleading and false because the bags were made with plastic that was collected from communities in Indonesia up to 50kmfrom a shoreline, and not from the ocean or sea.

Clorox had disclaimers at the back of the packaging clarifying that the bags were made using 50% ocean bound plastic collected from communities with no formal waste management system within 50km of the shoreline. However, this was in smaller writing and the ACCC considered this was not sufficient.

The ACCC argued that Clorox’s conduct deprived consumers of the opportunity to make an informed purchasing decision, which led to consumers purchasing the products where there was either no such environmental benefit as claimed, or such benefits were overstated. It also argued that the conduct undermined competition by overstating or misstating the relevant recyclability claims.

Although the ACCC is across the ditch, competition regulators globally and here – the Commerce Commission – have shown an interest in taking action against, have shown an interest in taking action against environmental claims. Therefore, businesses must ensure that any claims (visual or written) can be substantiated. This includes being cautious around language that is broad, such as ‘green’, ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘sustainable’ or the use of visual elements that may have misleading impressions. Any claims made should be thoroughly considered and disclaimers should be easily readable and apparent. 

Globally regulators are cracking down on environmental claims made by businesses, so if you do receive a complaint or have any concerns about an advertisement, product packaging or other marketing collateral, feel free to contact the Consumer Markets Team at Wynn Williams. We are experts at advising local and global brands, retailers and marketing teams and helping them to make decisions about product and advertisement claims.

Disclaimer
The information in these articles is general information only, is provided free of charge and does not constitute legal or other professional advice. We try to keep the information up to date. However, to the fullest extent permitted by law, we disclaim all warranties, express or implied, in relation to this article - including (without limitation) warranties as to accuracy, completeness and fitness for any particular purpose. Please seek independent advice before acting on any information in this article.