Thanks to Livia Petrucci for collaborating on this article

The EU Directive empowering consumers for the green transition through better protection against unfair practices and better information[1] (“Directive”) was adopted on February 28, 2024.

The Directive seeks to counter unfair commercial practices that prevent consumers from making sustainable consumption choices, including what are known as greenwashing practices (meaning practices involving misleading environmental claims). The Directive amends the EU Directive on unfair commercial practices[2] by introducing new definitions for terms such as “environmental claim” and “certification scheme,” amending the provisions on misleading actions and omissions, and amending the list of specific misleading commercial practices that are deemed unfair in all circumstance and are therefore prohibited.

Practices prohibited by the Directive include the following:

a) claiming, based on the offsetting of greenhouse gas emissions, that a product has a neutral, reduced, or positive impact on the environment in terms of greenhouse gas emissions;

b) displaying a sustainability label that is not based on a certification scheme or is not established by public authorities (e.g., an unofficial symbol that evokes the well-known Mobius cycle symbol);

c) making a generic environmental claim for which the professional is not able to prove the recognized excellent environmental performance of the product (e.g.,ecofriendly,” “biodegradable,” or simply “green”);

d) making an environmental claim about a manufacturer’s activities or a product as a whole when in reality the claim only relates to a certain aspect of its activities or a small fraction of the chain of production (e.g., calling a product “recycled” when only one of the materials used to make it is recycled);

e) stating that compliance with the requirements set forth by national law or European Union law on sustainability or corporate social responsibility is a distinctive feature of the manufacturer of a specific good or is unique to said manufacturer when, in reality, it is a general requirement that must be met to market the product (e.g., promoting a cosmetic product as “not tested on animals”);

f) withholding information from the consumer about the fact that a software update will negatively impact how goods with digital elements function or the use of digital content or digital services.

Among other things, the Directive is designed to ensure that professionals provide consumers with information about durability, reparability, and the availability of updates before they enter into contracts. In this light, the Directive establishes new definitions for phrases such as “commercial guarantee of durability” and “reparability score” and amends the information requirements for distance and off-premises contracts, as well as for other contracts.

For instance, pursuant to the Directive, if a manufacturer offers a commercial consumer guarantee of product durability at no additional cost, covering the entire product and with a duration of more than two years, and makes that information available to professionals, then before entering into the contract the consumer must be informed of the existence of said guarantee and its duration, as well as about the existence of the legal guarantee of conformity, in a prominent manner. For this purpose, a special label known as a “harmonized label” must be put on the product.

In another example, before entering into the contract, where applicable, the consumer must be informed of the product’s reparability score (meaning a rating expressing a product’s ability to be repaired, based on harmonized requirements established at the EU level). If this is not applicable and provided that the manufacturer makes such information available to professionals, the consumer must receive information about the availability and estimated cost of spare parts needed to keep the products compliant, the procedure for ordering said spare parts, the availability of repair and maintenance instructions, and repair restrictions.

Member States must transpose the Directive within 24 months of its entry into force (i.e., March 26, 2024, the twentieth day following the Directive’s publication in the Official Journal of the European Union). While there is still a long way to go to achieve the green transition, the Directive is poised to move toward that goal by helping consumers make informed purchasing decisions and contributing to more sustainable consumption patterns.

[1] Directive (EU) 2024/825 amending EU Directives 2005/29/EC and 2011/83/EU with regard to empowering consumers for the green transition through better protection against unfair practices and through better information—published in the Official Journal of the European Union on March 6, 2024.

[2] Directive 2005/29/EC.