Consumer protection law, simply explained, is a field charged with the responsibility of protecting the general public from any form of undue exploitation by retailers and service providers.
With the dawn of “going green” trends globally, the consumer is being lobbied and bombarded with campaigns to migrate to green living. These rigorous campaigns have opened opportunity for false and misleading advertising.
Many consumers are heeding the call to go green. Consequently, many people concern themselves with the environmental effects of the products they purchase for domestic use.
This in turn has prompted many manufacturers to endorse their products with environmental promotion claims.
The product packaging may claim to use recycled products, the manufacturer may make carbon offset claims, and general claims of environmental friendliness. Environmentally conscious consumers will then purchase these products with the blind belief that such claims are true.
The biggest challenge presented by these claims is that verification is near impossible. For instance, when a tissue paper manufacturer claims that a tree is planted for 10 tissue rolls sold, there is hardly any way that the average consumer would be able to verify the claim made. It is a loaded statement, the veracity of which is based solely on the word of the manufacturer making it. The obvious problem then is that any manufacturer can make any claim really, especially in cases where verification would be cumbersome and expensive.
This requires a three legged approach to the problem.
Firstly, government must engage constructively with manufactures, retailers and services providers. The purpose of such engagement being to pave a way for ethical environmental advertising, proper parameters must be established to guide the advertiser and prevent false and misleading marketing.
Secondly, consumer protection laws must be updated to include protection against disingenuous environmental marketing. Such laws should include the threat of heavy fines for such conduct, making it clear that such exploitation of the environment for profit will not be tolerated at all.
Thirdly, there must be established a governmental department dedicated to investigating claims, and perhaps ensuring that when such claims are made they are indeed fulfilled.
As environmental marketing continues to grow, consumer protection laws must also develop to meet the exploitation that is sure to follow.
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