The Commission is today proposing to update EU consumer protection rules to empower consumers to take action for the green transition. The updated rules will allow consumers to make informed and environmentally friendly choices when buying their products. Consumers will have the right to know how long a product is designed for and, if so, how it can be repaired. In addition, the rules will strengthen consumer protection against unreliable or false environmental claims, by banning ‘greenwashing’ and practices that mislead consumers about a product’s sustainability.
Mme Vera JourovaVice President, Values and Transparency, said: “We support consumers who are now looking for more durable and repairable products. We must ensure that their voluntary approach is not hindered by misleading information. With this proposal, we are giving them strong new tools to make informed choices and increase the sustainability of products and our economy.”
Mr Didier ReyndersJustice Commissioner, added: “If we don’t start consuming more sustainably, we won’t meet our European Green Deal targets – it’s as simple as that. While most consumers are ready to do their part, we are also seeing an increase in ‘greenwashing’ and early obsolescence practices. To become real players in the ecological transition, consumers must be able to access useful information to make sustainable choices. They must also be protected against unfair commercial practices that abuse their interest in ecological products.”
A new right to information on the durability and repairability of products
The Commission proposes to amend the Consumer Rights Directive to oblige traders to provide consumers with information on the durability and reparability of products:
- durability : consumers must be informed of the guaranteed durability of the products. If the producer of a consumer good offers a commercial guarantee of durability for more than two years, the seller must provide this information to the consumer. For energy-using goods, the seller must also inform consumers when no information on a commercial guarantee of durability has been provided by the producer;
- repairs and updates: the seller must also provide relevant information on the repairs, such as the repairability index (if it exists), or other relevant information made available by the producer, such as the availability of spare parts or a repair manual. With regard to smart devices and digital content and services, the consumer must also be informed of software updates provided by the producer.
Producers and sellers will decide on the most appropriate way to provide this information to the consumer, whether on the packaging or in the product description on the website. In any case, they will be provided before the purchase, in a clear and understandable way.
A ban on greenwashing and planned obsolescence
The Commission is also proposing several amendments to the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (UCPD). First, the list of product characteristics about which a trader cannot mislead consumers is extended to include the environmental and social impacts of the product, as well as its durability and reparability. Then, new practices are added to the list, which are considered misleading after a case-by-case assessment, such as an environmental claim relating to future environmental performance without clear, objective and verifiable commitments and objectives and without a system independent control.
Finally, the Commission amends the UCPD by adding new practices to the existing ‘black list’ of prohibited unfair commercial practices. These new practices include:
- failing to inform about features introduced to limit the durability of an assetfor example, software designed to block or degrade the operation of an asset after a certain period of time;
- make generic and vague environmental claims when the excellent environmental performance of a product or a professional cannot be demonstrated. Examples of such generic environmental claims are “environmentally friendly”, “ecologically” or “green”, which falsely suggest or create the impression of excellent environmental performance;
- to present an environmental claim concerning the product as a whole, when in reality it concerns only one of its characteristics;
- display a voluntary sustainability label which is not based on a certification system or which has not been set up by public authorities;
- failing to inform the consumer that a good is designed to function in a limited way if one uses consumables, spare parts or accessories which are not provided by the original producer.
These changes aim to guarantee legal certainty for professionals, but also to facilitate the application of the legislation in cases of greenwashing and early obsolescence of products. Moreover, if environmental claims are fair, consumers will be able to choose products that are actually better for the environment than their competitors. Competition will promote more environmentally sustainable products, which will reduce negative environmental impacts.
The next steps
The Commission’s proposals will now be examined by the Council and the European Parliament. Once they have been adopted and then transposed into the national legislation of the Member States, consumers will have the right to redress in the event of infringement, including through the collective redress procedure provided for in the Directive relating to representative actions.
Proposed revisions to EU consumer protection legislation have been announced in the New Consumer Agenda and the Circular Economy Action Plan. The revisions aim to support the changes needed in consumer behavior to achieve the climate and environmental objectives of the European Green Deal, by ensuring that consumers have better information on the durability and reparability of products, and by protecting them from business practices that prevent them from making more sustainable purchases.
To develop the proposal, the Commission consulted over 12,000 consumers, as well as businesses, consumer experts and national authorities. It emerged that verifying the reliability of environmental claims on products was the main obstacle for consumers on the path to ecological transition. About half of those surveyed said they were willing to pay more for a product to last longer without having to repair it.
Research also shows that consumers face unfair trade practices, which actively prevent them from making sustainable choices. Early obsolescence of goods, misleading environmental claims (“greenwashing”), and non-transparent and unreliable sustainability labels or information tools are common practices.
This proposal is part of the European Commission’s broader objective to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, which can only be achieved if consumers consume and businesses produce more sustainably. This proposal will also be complemented by other initiatives, notably the Sustainable Products Initiative (also adopted today) and the forthcoming initiatives on the obligation to substantiate environmental claims and the right to redress ( for which a public consultation is open until April 5, 2022). The forthcoming Right to Repair initiative will focus on promoting the repair of goods after purchase, while today’s initiative, which aims to empower consumers to take ecological transition, imposes the obligation to provide information on repairability before purchase and protection against unfair practices linked to early obsolescence.https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/ have-your-say/initiativ…
On February 23, 2022, the European Commission also adopted its proposal for a Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive, which establishes clear and balanced rules for businesses to respect human rights and the environment, and behave sustainably and responsibly. In parallel, the Commission is also working to support businesses in the context of the ecological transition, including through voluntary initiatives such as the commitment to sustainable consumption.
To know more
Proposal for a directive to empower consumers to act in favor of the ecological transition through better protection against unfair practices and better information and annex
Factsheet on the theme “Empowering consumers to act in favor of the ecological transition”
Web page on the theme “Empowering consumers to act in favor of the ecological transition”