The Australian consumer watchdog has sounded a warning to carmakers making dubious claims around their electric cars – some of which it says are tantamount ‘greenwashing’.

    The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recently issued draft guidance for businesses, framing the way they should communicate their environmental and sustainability claims under Australian Consumer Law.

    The goal is to eventually punish those companies continually making misleading or selective claims about their environmental credentials, a tactic known as ‘greenwashing’.

    “A growing number of businesses are making environmental claims about their products, services, and operations. Many consumers consider environmental claims as a major factor when choosing what to buy,” the watchdog said.

    “However, consumers can find it difficult to verify whether environmental claims are true, and there are concerns that many of these claims do not accurately reflect the true environmental impact associated with a business, or the products or services it supplies.”

    The draft guidance focuses on the wider economy, including the car industry which is increasingly rolling out electric and hybrid vehicles to burnish its eco credentials.

    The draft guidelines actually give a hypothetical example of how a car manufacturer can publish what it sees as misleading marketing.

    “A business has begun designing and manufacturing electric vehicles and claims that it ‘creates zero emission electric vehicles’. This claim only considers the emissions produced while the vehicle is being driven,” said the ACCC.

    “It does not account for the emissions generated, for example, during the manufacturing process or when charging the vehicle.

    “While it is true that the vehicle produces zero emissions while being driven, this claim risks creating the impression that the vehicle produces zero emissions for its entire life cycle and misleading consumers in contravention of the ACL.

    “The business could instead qualify the claim that its vehicles produce ‘zero exhaust emissions while driving’.”

    Interestingly, the state governments of Victoria and Queensland use the term “zero emissions vehicle” in their respective EV support programs. See the image above for proof of that.

    The ACCC’s draft guidance and its “eight principles for trustworthy environmental and sustainability claims” can be read here. The public can make submissions or suggestions until September 15 this year.

    Have you seen any car brands using the term “zero emissions electric vehicle” without stipulating that CO2 is still emitted when making, recycling and (potentially) charging? Let us know!

    Mike Costello
    Mike Costello is a Senior Contributor at CarExpert.
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