Australia cracks down on companies misleading environmental claims, fake reviews

Skyscrapers crowd Sydney's central business district (CBD), 26 June 2005. (TORSTEN BLACKWOOD / AFP)

SYDNEY – The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) launched two internet sweeps to seek out companies with misleading environmental marketing claims and fake business reviews.

The findings of the two sweeps will be published and followed up with activities to ensure industry compliance

The two sweeps, which were announced by the peak consumer watchdog on Tuesday, aim to identify deceptive advertising and marketing practices, with one focusing on claims of sustainability and the other on the writing of fake or misleading reviews.

The findings of the two sweeps will be published and followed up with activities to ensure industry compliance.

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At least 200 companies' websites will be reviewed in the sweep for misleading environmental claims across a wide range of sectors, including energy, vehicles, household appliances, food packaging, cosmetics and clothing.

"This sweep forms a core part of our work in actively monitoring for 'greenwashing' in the market and will help inform what steps businesses can take to improve the integrity of their environmental claims," said ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard.

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"The ACCC won't hesitate to take enforcement action where we see that consumers are being misled or deceived by green claims," Rickard added.

Another internet sweep will target fake or misleading online reviews and testimonials, the first of a series of smaller-scale sweeps focusing on deceptive practices in the digital marketplace.

At least 100 businesses will be reviewed for this initial sweep, targeting areas in which consumers most commonly rely on reviews including household appliances, electronics, fashion, beauty products, food and restaurants, travel services, sport, home improvement, kitchenware, health products, as well as furniture and bedding.

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"We are looking to identify businesses, review platforms or sectors where there is a pattern of misleading online reviews and testimonials that have the potential to cause significant consumer or small business harm," said Rickard.

"The sweeps will be followed up with compliance, education and potential enforcement activities and we also want to improve awareness to enable consumers to make more informed purchasing decisions."