With an increasing number of companies touting their products as “green” or “environmentally friendly,” consumers have reportedly begun challenging those claims in court complaining that they paid more for products that did not meet their expectations. According to a news source, some manufacturers have added self-designed labels that imply they have earned a third-party seal of approval when that is not the case and some call their products “biodegradable,” when the products have little chance of actually decomposing in a landfill. At least four consumer lawsuits alleging misleading advertising about environmental impact have apparently been filed since 2007, and dozens of Federal Trade Commission and industry self-policing actions have been initiated over the past 18 months.
A putative class action involving cleaning products with a self-designed “Greenlist” label is pending in California. Scheduled for trial in December 2010, it seeks purchase price refunds and injunctive relief. Similar litigation is reportedly pending in a federal court in Wisconsin. A business economics professor noted that this litigation could represent “a turning point in corporate green claims,” suggesting that regardless of outcome, the cases will pressure companies “to hone their green messages and make them more factual and credible.” See The Wall Street Journal, April 24, 2010.