Consumers who encounter greenwashing claims can report to CASE: MOS Alvin Tan

Regulators are also paying attention to developments in other jurisdictions.

Gawain Pek | March 21, 2023, 06:52 PM

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Consumers who encounter instances of greenwashing based on claims made by suppliers can approach the Consumer Association of Singapore (CASE) for help, Minister of State for Trade and Industry Alvin Tan said in Parliament on Mar. 21.

In "egregious cases", the supplier may be referred to Singapore's competition watchdog, the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS), for investigation, Tan added.

The minister was responding to questions raised by Workers' Party (WP) Member of Parliament (MP) Leon Perera on greenwashing in Singapore, as well as the government's regulatory and legislative plans to tackle greenwashing locally.

No complaints received by CASE or CCCS so far

Perera had asked the Minister for Trade and Industry how often enforcement actions have been taken under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act for greenwashing-related activities.

The MP also asked how many of such actions have been taken against non-financial products and services not regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

Relatedly, Perera asked if the Ministry of Trade and Industry will consider working with the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore to explore expanding the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice to "explicitly cover greenwashing in non-financial products and services".

In response, Tan revealed that CASE and CCCS "have not received any specific complaints alleging greenwashing".

With regards to the Code of Advertising Practice, Tan pointed out that there are existing guidelines to ensure that "advertisers must clearly explain, adequately substantiate and qualify any environmental claim, where necessary".

Singapore monitoring global developments

Perera then followed up by asking Tan if there is possibility of legislation in the future, considering the importance of "ensur[ing] public confidence in the accuracy of green claims when they're made".

"There are countries that have legislated to say that when brands make green claims, they must be able to provide supporting documentation to some kind of authority or independent audit process," Perera said.

Currently, legislative plans to penalise firms found to have engaged in greenwashing activities are in the pipeline in jurisdictions such as the UK.

The Guardian reported that the European Union will be tabling a new law soon to propose fines for companies that make unsubstantiated environmental claims.

On this, Tan shared that the current scope of the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act is "sufficiently broad to address greenwashing claims by a supplier in a B2C transaction", but that Singapore will monitor and assess if any developments overseas can be applied here.

"The CCCS is studying developments on greenwashing in other jurisdictions, and in fact, to assess if any specific guidance or regulations would be useful in the Singapore context," Tan said.

Perera also asked if complaints of greenwashing made by the public or NGOs will be investigated by CCCS, to which Tan pointed out that consumers can approach CASE with greenwashing complaints.

"In egregious cases, we may refer the supplier to the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore for investigation," Tan concluded.

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