Environmental claim brews a challenge from competitor

Environmental claims can be a powerful marketing tool with consumers becoming more conscious of their impact on the environment.

As more and more companies rely on environmental claims to distinguish their brands and products, there is increasing scrutiny of these claims and how they can be substantiated.

The case of the coffee cups

The Ad Standards Industry Jury has recently upheld a competitor complaint against a company claiming that its disposable coffee cups are plastic-free, fully recyclable and compostable. 

Following a full assessment of the advertising material and submissions provided by the advertiser and the complainant, the Industry Jury upheld the complaint.

The Industry Jury took the view that the advertising material created an overall impression that was misleading or deceptive and which implied a benefit to the environment which was not substantiated.

The case serves as an important reminder to advertisers that they must hold sound documentary evidence to support claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation, before publishing their advertising or marketing communication. 

In response to the determination, the advertiser has agreed to review its advertising material.

The full case report provides further detail about the case, including the submissions made by both the complainant and advertiser and the Industry Jury’s analysis. 

The outcome highlights the advertisers’ responsibilities under the advertising codes, and illustrates the scope Ad Standards has to review advertising claims in media other than traditional advertising space (including claims on a company's own website and brochures).

How does the Industry Jury work?

The Industry Jury is a competitor complaint resolution service. Any Australian business can make a complaint against a competitor under Section 1 of the AANA’s Code of Ethics. The Industry Jury is made up of a panel of three lawyers that specialise in advertising law and/or competition and consumer law.

The Ad Standards Industry Jury service is available to all Australian businesses on a fee for service basis, and provides a mechanism to resolve complaints between competitors about the truth, accuracy and legality of their advertisements. 

One of the greatest benefits of using the Industry Jury service is the ability to have a case assessed and resolved in a fraction of the time and cost required for litigation.

For further information about making a complaint about a competitor’s environmental claims which may be considered by our Industry Jury panel see Industry Jury.

For further information about how to make a consumer complaint about environmental claims which may be considered by our Community Panel visit the Environmental Claims code.

And finally, before making any environmental claims about your products, you should also read the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's publication Green marketing and the Australian Consumer Law to help you comply with the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.