Empowering consumers for the green transition: Council adopts its position

On 3rd May the Council has adopted its position (‘negotiating mandate’) on the proposed directive to empower consumers for the green transition, which aims at enhancing consumers´ rights by amending the unfair commercial practices directive (UCPD) and the consumer rights directive (CRD). The Council position reinforces consumer rights, bans generic environmental claims, and introduces a European Union harmonised graphic format, to help consumers recognise commercial guarantees of durability.

“The green transition is a collective effort, and the role of consumers’ behaviour will be paramount. We want to be sure that consumers are equipped to play that role with reliable information, protection against misleading advertisement, and easier ways to recycle or repair.” said Erik Slottner, Swedish Minister for Public Administration

Protecting against unfair practices
While many consumers want to contribute to the circular economy by buying more sustainable products, they are often confronted with unfair commercial practices, like misleading ‘green’ claims, or products that either break earlier than expected or that are too difficult or expensive to repair. Addressing these problems, the Council position reinforces consumers’ right to information, enabling them to be active players in the green transition.

In the approved negotiating mandate, the Council proposes banning generic environmental claims such as ‘eco-friendly’, ‘green’, or ‘climate neutral’. Producers would no longer be allowed to advertise their products, processes, or businesses in such general terms if the claims cannot be substantiated by a publicly accessible certification scheme.

To enable better comparison of products and reduce consumer confusion, only sustainability labels based on official certification schemes or registered as certification marks or established by public authorities would be allowed in the future.

These measures are related to information on the durability and reparability of the product, or the methods used by traders to compare the sustainability of the products they sell.

The Commission proposal expands the annex to the unfair commercial practices directive listing commercial practices that will be banned in all circumstances, referred to as the ‘blacklist’.

It is considered as unfair commercial practice for traders not to inform consumers when a good has a limited lifespan or contains a feature introduced to limit its durability. Consumers should also be warned if the good is designed not to be compatible with consumables, spare parts or accessories provided by third-party producers. It will also be prohibited to present goods as allowing repair when they do not.

Enforcing consumer rights
In the amendments to the consumer rights directive, the Commission’s proposal introduced a commercial guarantee of durability for producers. That is a commitment from the producer that the good will maintain certain functions or performances during an indicated period. The Council proposes the creation of a harmonised graphic format to clearly inform consumers about such guarantees of durability for specific goods. This will provide a single visual logo for consumers in the internal market to identify goods that are covered by these guarantees.

The compromise text also obliges traders to provide the right of information for products containing digital elements. For instance, for products where software updates are provided, consumers should be informed for how long they may benefit from these updates.

To allow member states sufficient time to adapt the changes in the legislation, the Council position extends the transposition period from 18 to 24 months.

Next steps
The Coreper mandate agreed today formalises the Council’s negotiating position. It provides the Council presidency with a mandate for negotiations with the European Parliament, which can start as soon as the Parliament adopts its position.

Infographic – Why circular economy?

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