On the heels of the FTC's recent public hearings related to oversight of carbon offset programs, ten state attorneys general are urging the agency to take further action on tightening guidelines for companies selling offset credits and renewable energy certificates from a consumer protection standpoint. In a January 25 letter, the attorneys general point to the lack of a clear, consistent definition of what qualifies as a "real" offset, making it difficult for consumers to verify that they have obtained the benefits of their bargain. The letter also points to unverifiable claims made by companies about their carbon footprint or the carbon footprint of the goods or services they offer. The letter offers a number of recommendations, including research on consumer perception of claims and associated terms (i.e., what do consumers generally think "carbon neutral" means?); research on the efficacy of disclosure; consumer education; and "interim enforcement" using the existing Green Guides to a greater extent.
To view a copy of the letter, click here