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AUS: Misleading 'Environmentally Friendly' Claims

BOC Gases: Misleading 'Environmentally Friendly' Claims

After Australian Competition and Consumer inquiries, BOC Gases has agreed to stop making unqualified representations about air conditioning gas.

BOC Gases used the image of a frog, the words 'green', 'green air conditioning'; 'environmentally preferred' and the logo 'Ozone Care!"' in association with FR 12!" in its technical and promotional materials to air conditioning installers.

FR 12!" is a replacement gas used in automotive air conditioners and contains an ozone-depleting potential component referred to as R124.

"The use of such terms as 'environmentally friendly' or environmentally safe' should be avoided, as few, if any products could justify a claim that they are totally free of adverse effects," ACCC Chairman, Professor Allan Fels, said today.

"The use of particular images may also be capable of making a sweeping claim of environmental benefit that may be misleading".

If a product has environmental benefits they should be specifically spelt out. Generally a claim should refer to the specific part of the product or process it is referring to; use language which the average member of the public can understand; explain the significance of the benefit and be able to substantiate the claim.

Any benefit claimed should also be real or relevant, for example, if a product is promoted as being 'phosphate free' when the product has never contained phosphate, then such a claim would risk contravention of the law.

Sometimes enhancing the environmental benefits of a product may involve a trade-off that results in some loss of performance compared to that offered by a previous formulation. If a consumer can attain equivalent performance only by using substantially more of a product, then the environmental benefit may be slight or illusory. In any event, a consumer should not be misled into believing that a product's performance is unimpaired if this is not so.

BOC Gases have agreed to clarify the environmental and performance comparisons, cease using general terms such as 'environmentally preferred' or general 'green' claims with respect to FR 12!".

BOC Gases will remove the frog image and the Ozone Care !" logo directly in relation to FR 12 in future publications of technical and promotional materials. Moreover, BOC Gases will implement an internal policy to prevent misleading environmental representations from being made in the future.

The ACCC was concerned that consumers would rely on representations made to installers with the erroneous expectation that FR 12!" is the most environmentally friendly air conditioning gas available.

The ACCC will monitor BOC Gases compliance with the Trade Practices Act 1974.

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