Web Marketing To Green or Not to Green? Beware!

  • Sep 13, 2010

Web Marketing To Green or Not to Green? Beware!

Many people falsely think that the 'web' is a Trade Practices Act free zone; that is, that you can pretty well do or say what you like, when you like - and get away with it. Recent experience has shown that in Australia, web-based marketing is just as scrutinised as  any other form - and your website is about as public as a representation can get.

Take for example, the recent trend towards green marketing - which in many cases, is designed to hitch a very brown product to the green bandwagon. Consumers are suddenly being beset by advertisers claiming their product is greener than the rest, or that it comes with guilt-free 'carbon offsets' or even better, is pristine 'carbon neutral' itself. These terms are relatively new to the public and while may be familiar, come laden with a high degree of confusion or misunderstanding. Some marketers have sought to exploit this through positive but inaccurate product association - it's the "greenwash".

Advertisers and sellers need to be very, very careful with green claims. Not only are they potentially confusing to consumers, but they can also be downright misleading if not presented in an accurate and clear manner. This rule applies to websites just as much as to any other form of advertising - whether it's signage, labelling, packaging or simply a claim as to an affiliation. If you want to make environmental claims about your goods or services - make sure they are clear, 100% accurate and scientifically verifiable - and that they are in a context which keeps them that way.

Let's take a look at a recent example. The Gold Coast hosts a big V8 supercars event and opponents of V8 racing often refer negatively to its carbon footprint. It is therefore not surprising that V8 supercars proudly announced in 2008 that it would plant 10,000 native trees to "offset" the emissions from the championship series. While presumably the claim as to tree planting was true, the ACCC alleged that people were likely to be misled or deceived into thinking that planting these trees would "quickly" offset emissions.  In fact, as the ACCC pointed out, "...if businesses want to make claims  that planting trees will offset carbon emissions, they must explain that this will only occur over the full life of the trees... Further, when seedlings are first planted the amount of carbon that they absorb is likely to be very small.  It is not until the trees are fully grown that they can maximise carbon absorption."

So was this claim potentially illegal? YES. Why?

V8 Supercars admitted it may have breached section 52 of the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth) and agreed to provide court-enforceable undertakings to the ACCC. Section 52 prohibits companies/ businesses from engaging in conduct that is likely to mislead or deceive the public. The prohibition is widely enforced and applies even where no one was actually misled or deceived at all. The Act also contains specific prohibitions against certain false or misleading representations as to goods or services. The maximum penalty per offence is $1.2 million. As this case illustrates, the ACCC requires a high degree of accuracy in green marketing claims and even where an ad is literally "true", an overall impression which may be false can be enough to attract adverse ACCC attention to you and your business. By providing undertakings, V8 supercars avoided liability - provided they comply with those undertakings.

So in summary - if you want to claim your product is green, pause to make sure that the people likely to read your website or ad will gain a factually correct and accurate overall impression. This is why factual omissions or tiny disclaimers containing critical clarifications are often held to be ineffective to prevent a breach of the law. Similarly, ads which contain wildly exaggerated claims or predictions can also be misleading - in this area, more than most, clarity and accuracy in a clear context are the key.

Website advertisers and marketers should audit their web pages and other materials like brochures, pamphlets, TV and radio ads and so on -  to identify and rewrite claims or representations which may infringe section 52. New claims should similarly be reviewed - the minute they hit the web, they are in the public domain and you may face TPA liability.

MATHEWS HUNT LEGAL can help you to audit and rectify your website and marketing materials - to ensure that you don't find yourself facing fines of up to $1.2 million. An audit is quick, simple and far cheaper than getting it wrong!

Contact Peter Hunt, Managing Partner, MATHEWS HUNT LEGAL on 07 5555 8000 Gold Coast Body Corporate Lawyers (www.mathewshuntlegal.com.au)

Other Articles

Oct 9, 2018 Anatomy of a local Google Search
Sep 19, 2018 A French Affair and Dangerous Liaisons
Sep 17, 2018 Break-even Analysis for Bookkeeping
Aug 23, 2018 Recycled Timber Architecture Features
Aug 9, 2018 The Un-natural Art of the Wheel
Aug 3, 2018 How much should you spend on a website?
Jul 24, 2018 A Brief History of Kimono and Obi
Jul 11, 2018 What do we mean by home automation?
Jul 11, 2018 Southport Mechanic
Jun 6, 2018 Seeing Red over Cola
Jun 4, 2018 TERMITES - PLAYING THE GAME
May 28, 2018 Why a Multi-Skilled SEO offers better value
May 11, 2018 How does the DREAM turn into a SCREAM?
May 7, 2018 The Alarming History of Geese, Dogs and Bells
Apr 5, 2018 Air Spider
Mar 13, 2018 Planting a hedge fence
Feb 9, 2018 Life Saving Tyre Accessories
Feb 6, 2018 The bakers oven stops
Dec 6, 2017 Relationship Counselling - the volatile couple
Nov 9, 2017 Don't kill the ants
Oct 25, 2017 Plumbing, the Ancient Art of Managing Water
Oct 11, 2017 The Secret Life of Micropiles
Sep 29, 2017 Foundation Underpinning
Sep 8, 2017 Termites the secretive pest
Sep 7, 2017 Sharing your Google Analytics
Sep 5, 2017 Website speed test claims put to the test
Aug 23, 2017 Custom Timber Dining Tables
Jun 23, 2017 Kitchen Renovation Alfresco BBQ
Jun 12, 2017 Hire a photo booth
May 10, 2017 My Site Dropped out of Google
Apr 20, 2017 Recycled Timber comes with a story
Apr 8, 2017 Light Up Your Home
Dec 12, 2016 Evolving eCommerce with SEO
Dec 5, 2016 Image Manager 4 Released
Oct 14, 2016 Classic Gold Coast
Sep 26, 2016 Techheads who can market
Sep 9, 2016 Issues with childhood photography
Aug 30, 2016 Never Make an Impulse Appliance Purchase
Aug 15, 2016 Using the potential of YouTube
Aug 2, 2016 How to add a review to Google Places
Jul 26, 2016 Servicing your air-conditioner
Jul 22, 2016 Eco-friendly Home Building
Jun 13, 2016 Timber Floors
May 13, 2016 Timber Furniture Gold Coast
Apr 13, 2016 Interactive Charts
Feb 18, 2016 Ideas for creating passive income
Jan 29, 2016 Better Childhood Photography
Dec 30, 2015 Gold Coast Real Estate
Nov 20, 2015 Feed-in Solar Tariffs Queensland
Nov 5, 2015 Kindergarten Photographers
Sep 23, 2015 Low Budget High Impact Web Videos
Sep 8, 2015 Pool Inspection Laws Queensland
Jul 23, 2015 Protection against power surges
Jul 13, 2015 Intelligent Security Systems
Jun 17, 2015 Advanced Security Cameras
Jan 15, 2015 Is your security provider licensed?
Jan 6, 2015 Inspired by Necessity
Dec 7, 2014 Social Media vs SEO for sales generation
Nov 1, 2014 Responsive Websites vs a Mobile version
Sep 8, 2014 Simplify Writing - Get that job
Apr 8, 2014 Cockroaches like BBQs too
Mar 27, 2014 Admin System Mark 3
Feb 12, 2014 HTML5 improving SEO and Social Interaction
Jan 17, 2014 TV Commercials with impact - on time
Dec 2, 2013 Negative SEO
Nov 29, 2013 A flexible e-mail system
Nov 13, 2013 Social Media Strategies for SEO
Oct 15, 2013 Web Video Production
Sep 26, 2013 Soft drinks can damage your teeth?
Aug 29, 2013 Haridresser Gold Coast
Aug 26, 2013 Jet Boat Ride Gold Coast
Aug 6, 2013 Dental Site Videos
Aug 3, 2013 Gold Coast Tradesman Directory
Jul 2, 2013 Creating audio for your site via your iPhone
Apr 23, 2013 Yellow Pages Google Partnership Unfair
Aug 17, 2012 Facebook Account Security
Jul 6, 2012 Gold Coast a great place to Study
Dec 22, 2011 New Real Estate System
Oct 17, 2011 Managing your domains a quick guide
Apr 4, 2011 Our Facebook Application
Feb 1, 2011 Video Marketing
Jan 5, 2011 Questions to ask your web developer
Dec 28, 2010 Health and Fitness sites
Dec 28, 2010 Surfboard for sale site launched
Dec 9, 2010 Why is my content management system so slow?
Nov 26, 2010 Google now includes local places results
Oct 31, 2010 Getting Listed on Google Places very important
Oct 19, 2010 Security Systems site launched
Sep 28, 2010 Google Personalized Searches
Sep 9, 2010 Jet ski or Jet boat Gold Coast
Jul 19, 2010 Java Web Hosting
Jul 7, 2010 Assess your eCommerce opportunities
Jun 11, 2010 DIY SEO
May 26, 2010 Planning a website
Apr 22, 2010 Enhanced Email Marketing Tool for your website
Apr 12, 2010 Site Speed is important for Google
Mar 26, 2010 360 degree Panoramas + Google Maps

A Gold Coast SEO and Web Developer