EC targets 20 airlines on ‘misleading’ green claims

The European Commission and EU consumer authorities have written to 20 airlines identifying “greenwashing” and “potentially misleading claims” by them and giving the carriers 30 days to comply with EU consumer law.

The EC and European Network of Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) Authorities issued the ultimatum in letters to the airlines – including most of the major EU-based carriers – at the end of April, following a complaint brought last year by European consumer organisation BEUC.

They have threatened action against practices that “can be considered misleading actions [or] omissions prohibited under the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive”.

The list of ‘misleading’ practices includes:

Using the term ‘sustainable aviation fuel’ without clearly justifying the environmental impact of such fuel.

Using the terms ‘green’, ‘sustainable’ or ‘responsible’ “in an absolute way”.

Creating the impression that paying an additional fee to finance climate projects or to support use of alternative aviation fuels “can reduce or fully counterbalance CO2 emissions”.

Claiming an airline is moving towards net-zero greenhouse gas emissions “without clear and verifiable” commitments, targets and independent monitoring.

Presenting a calculator for the CO2 emissions of a flight without sufficient scientific proof that the calculation is reliable.

Presenting a comparison of flights and their CO2 emissions “without sufficient and accurate information” on the elements the comparison is based on.

The airlines have until the end of May to respond and will need to produce “sound scientific evidence” to justify any claims.

EC vice-president for values and transparency Věra Jourová said: “If we want responsible consumers, we need to provide accurate information. More and more travellers care about their environmental footprint. They deserve accurate and scientific answers, not vague or false claims.”

In a separate move, the EC designated Booking.com as a ‘gatekeeper’ or core platform service under the Digital Markets Act (DMA) last week, giving the accommodation giant six months to demonstrate full compliance with the legislation.

Booking joined Google parent Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, TikTok parent ByteDance, Facebook parent Meta and Microsoft in being designated a ‘gatekeeper’ and required to comply with the DMA and has six months to demonstrate compliance.

The EC launched major investigations into three of the platforms for non-DMA compliance in March.

Margrethe Vestager, EC executive vice president for competition policy, said: “Holidaymakers will start benefiting from more choice and hotels will have more business opportunities following our decision [on Booking].”

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