The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been very active in combating greenwashers, those advertisers and marketers of green products and services that make false or deceptive claims of environmental benefits.
America’s consumer watchdog agency has addressed greenwashing in two ways. First, the agency has attempted to preempt it through guidance to advertisers in its Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims, commonly know as the Green Guides, which provide a framework for green marketers to formulate permissible environmental benefit claims for products and services.
Second, the FTC has undertaken a number of enforcement actions against greenwashers, including against an LED manufacturer for misleading environmental benefit claims and a recent lawsuit against Volkswagen on behalf of consumers.
In a recent piece published on Law360, three attorneys from the WilmerHale law firm wrote that the FTC appears poised to take a more active role in the area of rooftop solar installations.
A workshop held by the FTC in June examined consumer protection issues in the rooftop solar industry, which operates amid a “complex matrix of laws, regulations, policies, subsidies and incentives.”
According to the article, the FTC believes it has the expertise to protect consumers of rooftop solar installations:
The FTC has taken the position that it is “uniquely positioned” to ensure that “consumers are well-informed about its pros and cons and the options available to them” regarding rooftop solar generation.
The agency, of course, has the authority to target deceptive advertising, and it noted at the workshop that the Green Guides are applicable to the marketing of rooftop solar installations.
Furthermore, the FTC has issued “Solar Power for Your Home” guidance for consumers and recently opened an enforcement action relating to allegedly illegal robocalls for solar marketing.
While a number of state officials believe primary regulatory responsibility for the rooftop solar industry should be on the state level, the article said, they recognize that the FTC could play a role in identifying best practices and consumer communication templates.
So we can expect to see more from the FTC to keep greenwashing in check as the rooftop solar industry expands.