Regional Court of Frankfurt am Main's decision on various climate neutral claims
Jurisdiction: Regional Court of Frankfurt am Main
Side A: Anonymous Party
Side B: Anonymous Party
Core objectives: Whether the advertising claims ‘climate neutral company’ and ‘climate neutral hygiene’ are misleading
Both parties distributed cleaning products to professional customers nationwide. The defendant had been certified by an external company as a ‘climate neutral company’. The defendant used this certificate in their advertising, such as ‘climate neutral company’ and ‘climate neutral hygiene’.
Furthermore, the defendant had created and used a Youtube advertising video with such advertising claims. This video contained a URL with the website of the defendant with an explanation. The explanation contained comments about avoiding and compensating their emissions, using the ISO 14067 standard. It also included another URL where more information could be found.
Next to the video, the defendant had also included an advertising on ‘climate neutrality’ on their website. The website included another URL where initial information on the topic could be found. The plaintiff argued that these advertisings were misleading.
The Regional Court of Frankfurt am Main found the advertising claims in the video to be misleading by omission and in breach of §5a para. 1 as neither the video nor the referenced website included necessary background information. The Court elaborated that the claim ‘climate-neutrality’ required a great deal of explanation. Without the appropriate background information, the claim of climate-neutrality remained opaque for the target market, whether consumers or professional buyers. The Regional Court stressed the importance of the manner that climate-neutrality was achieved, as only in this context could buyers assess how high the company’s efforts were to reduce or compensate their CO2 emissions. Ultimately, the claim ‘climate neutrality’ depended on the standard applied. According to these standards, it was only possible for buyers to assess whether a company was really concerned with its own reduction of CO2 emissions or whether it was merely ‘greenwashing’ if the company communicated the essential circumstances of climate-neutrality in clear and comprehensible manner.
The Court set out the specific disclosure requirements:
- Assessment basis (Reference object: company or product);
- Standard of calculation;
- Excluded emissions;
- Scope of own CO2 reduction measures and their savings effect, in particular in relation to CO2 emissions prior to implementation of the reduction measures;
- Type of compensation;
- Type and subject of the supported and / or self-implemented climate project and its CO2 reduction effects.
Furthermore, the Regional Court found the advertising on ‘CLIMATE NEUTRAL COMPANY certified by Fokus’ on the website of the defendant to be a misleading commercial practice and in breach of § 5 para. 1 of the German Act against Unfair Competition. This claim was misleading because it had been advertised without further information and because it was unclear on which basis the certification of climate neutrality had occurred. Even though another website had been referred to in the advertisement, necessary information was lacking there too. A further reference on that website did not suffice as nested information remained unclear. Instead, the Regional Court held that the information should be presented in a compact manner on a single website, using transparent and clear language.