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SDNY Permits Advancement of False Advertising Suit Regarding ​“Carbon Neutral” Assertions

USA 17.01.2024
Source: The DairyNews
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A class action lawsuit filed in 2022 against Danone Waters over its evian spring water will proceed following a decision by a judge in the Southern District of New York. The judge ruled this week that, as a matter of law, he could not ascertain that the term ​“carbon neutral” does not have the potential to deceive consumers.
SDNY Permits Advancement of False Advertising Suit Regarding ​“Carbon Neutral” Assertions
In its attempt to dismiss the complaint, asserting that ​“carbon neutral” is misleading, Danone contended that no reasonable consumer would interpret ​“carbon neutral” to imply that the product emits no carbon dioxide during its lifecycle. The company argued that consumers would not be misled because the claim is accompanied by the ​“Carbon Trust Certified” logo, a reference to the evian website for more information on the Carbon Trust certification, and the use of the PAS 2060 standard for evaluation.

However, the judge disagreed, stating that ​“carbon neutral” is a technical term with various possible meanings depending on the context. The judge concurred with the plaintiff that it resembles an unqualified general environmental benefit claim, cautioned against by the FTC’s Green Guides.

Danone contended that including a lengthy explanation on the label about carbon neutrality and the underlying data is not only impractical but not legally required. The judge disagreed, asserting that expecting consumers to visit two webpages to comprehend the meaning of ​“carbon neutral” and the Carbon Trust standards and certification process involves too much research.

While the judge did not specifically address the plaintiff’s claims regarding challenges in the carbon offsetting market, this order prompts questions about the extent of information companies should include on product labels and whether directing consumers to websites for essential information is acceptable. It also raises questions about the viability of claims based on carbon offsets as support for carbon reduction assertions. The case will be monitored as it progresses.
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