Following an alert from the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), 20 undisclosed airlines have received notifications highlighting several types of potentially misleading environmental claims; including the incorrect suggestion that passengers could pay to reduce or fully offset  their CO2 emissions through the use of sustainable fuels or climate projects.

The notifications originated from the European Commission and EU consumer authorities (Network of Consumer Protection Cooperation Authorities), which are concerned that the identified practices could be considered as misleading.

Specifically, these involve using the term ‘sustainable aviation fuels’ without clearly justifying their environmental impact, claims the airline is moving towards net-zero greenhouse gas emissions without providing clear and verifiable evidence, or using terms such as ‘green’ or ‘responsible’ in an absolute way. The concept of presenting consumers with insufficient information regarding CO2 emissions calculations was also highlighted.

Highlighting that as more and more travellers care about their environmental footprint, “they deserve accurate and scientific answers, not vague or false claims,” explained Věra Jourová, Vice-President for Values and Transparency at the European Commission. “We expect airlines, as well as any other industry operator, to make a responsible use of environmental claims”.

In March 2023, the European Commission published a further proposal encouraging traders to assess the integrity of their explicit environmental claims, encouraging airlines to adopt transparency regarding what part of those claims concerns their own operations and which elements rely on purchasing offsets.

The European Commission and CPC authorities have invited the airlines involved to provide a response within 30 days, outlining their proposed measures to address the concerns raised, after which the proposed solutions will be discussed and monitored. Airlines failing to comply with EU consumer law may subsequently face further enforcement actions, including sanctions.
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