Eco-friendly claims go unchecked

By Traci Watson • USA TODAY • June 22, 2009

WASHINGTON — The federal watchdog that’s supposed to crack down on product labels that make false environmental claims has taken almost no enforcement action over the last decade, even as “green” marketing claims have exploded, agency records show.

Companies touting eco-friendly products or biodegradable packaging are supposed to abide by guidelines issued by the Federal Trade Commission in 1992. The FTC can take companies that ignore the so-called “Green Guides” to court and seek fines to reimburse consumers.

Since May 2000, the FTC has taken legal action against only three companies for violating the guidelines. All three complaints were announced June 9, the day of a congressional hearing about environmental marketing.

“There has been little to no enforcement of the 1992 guides,” says environmental consultant Kevin Tuerff, whose company started a Web site aimed at exposing ads with questionable environmental claims. “They need to pick up the pace.”

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