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Regional Court of Konstanz's decision on climate neutral claims regarding heating oil

Jurisdiction: Regional Court of Konstanz

Side A: The Centre for Protection against unfair Competition (Ngo)

Side B: Anonymous Party

Core objectives: Whether the advertising claim ‘climate neutral premium heating oil’ is a misleading commercial practice and/or misleading by omission 

The Centre for Protection against Unfair Competition sued a fossil and oil dealer in relation to an advertising on ‘climate neutral premium heating oil’, arguing that it posed a misleading commercial practice, and additionally, that it was misleading by omission.

The Regional Court of Constance denied that the claim was misleading pursuant to § 5 para. 1 of the Act against Unfair Competition because the plaintiff had not sufficiently substantiated the misleading nature of the claim. However, the Court upheld the action on the grounds of a violation of §5a para. 2 because the plaintiff had omitted essential information.

The Regional Court held that the plaintiff omitted essential information by not connecting the statements in the advertising with information on how the advertised climate neutrality of the heating oil was achieved. It reiterated the strict standard applicable to environment-related advertising claims. The court emphasised that it was essential for the defendant's customers to know if climate neutrality was achieved through energy reductions in their own operations, the partial use of renewable energies or the acquisition of certificates. The Regional Court highlighted that reductions would be considered as more important than the mere acquisition of certificates due to the company’s significantly higher efforts and increased sustainability. In order to make an informed business decision, the customer needed information on how climate neutrality was achieved. The Regional Court also assumed that customers would be willing to pay more if climate neutrality was achieved by reducing emissions instead of merely offsetting them. In this case, however, the customers did not receive this information immediately, but only when they asked for it on the telephone. This was not sufficient, because the information would have been necessary when the business decision was made.
Case documents

from the Grantham Research Institute
from the Grantham Research Institute
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