A sweep of global websites making environmental claims has found tactics that could be considered misleading on 40% of the sites checked.
The annual online study, run by the International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network (ICPEN), gives consumer authorities across the world the opportunity to target fraudulent, deceptive or unfair conduct online.
This year's sweep focused on environmental claims for the first time, analysing almost 500 websites promoting online products and services across a range of sectors, including clothes, cosmetics and food. It found four out of 10 websites used an array of tactics that could mislead consumers about the environmental impact or sustainability of their choices.
The UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which jointly led the review, said the study showed too many websites are pushing misleading green claims, meaning those that do offer a genuine environmental benefit might not get the customers they deserve.
Michael Briggs, Which? head of sustainability, said: 'This latest research by regulators is a stark warning that many companies are failing to live up to environmental claims about their products and services, leaving the growing number of consumers looking to make more sustainable choices at risk of being misled.
'It's vital that manufacturers and retailers put a stop to greenwashing so that people can trust the information they see and make informed decisions. Otherwise the regulator must be prepared to take action to tackle this issue.'
Many of the websites examined in the survey used tactics that could be considered misleading and therefore potentially break consumer law, such as:
The CMA is currently undertaking its own UK-specific investigation to better understand the impact of green marketing on consumers. It will lookinto the ways that products and services claiming to be 'eco-friendly' are being marketed, and whether consumers could be being misled.
The aim of the investigation is to better understand how consumer protection legislation can be used to tackle false or misleading environmental claims that affect consumers, and support the move towards a low carbon economy through doing so.
The CMA also plans to produce guidance for businesses on how they can best be transparent in the way that they market goods and services in relation to any claims made about environmental impact.