This event was attended by about 100 industry, government and trade association representatives from Australia and New Zealand.
There were several topics of interest to the refrigeration industry, which I will discuss in several blog notes in the next few weeks. My first note focuses on the information offered by Roslyn McMaster, from the Enforcement/Compliance NSW Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC). Roslynâ€™s intervention in regards to what constitutes a â€˜green claimâ€™ and the role of ACCC in false environmental claims was a timely reminder of the industryâ€™s responsibility when developing new or improved energy efficiency standards.
The ACCC does not see â€˜greenâ€™ marketing as a new phenomenon. Cooperation between ACCC and the Australian Greenhouse Office goes back to a cooperation agreement signed in 2000. Environmental claims that are of particular interest to ACCC are those focusing on environmental sustainability, recycling, energy and water efficiency or impacts on animals and the natural environment. For example, statements such as â€˜greenâ€™,â€™ sustainableâ€™, â€˜renewable energyâ€™, carbon neutralâ€™, â€˜carbon offsetsâ€™, â€˜eco-friendlyâ€™ , â€˜environmentally safeâ€™ or products/services that promise improved â€˜greenhouse gas emissionsâ€™ Â footprints. Sound information that backs these statements needs to be made available by manufacturers in all kinds of products claiming â€˜greenâ€™ benefits.
The ACCC can act on the statements above under the Trade Practices Act (TPA). The aim of the Act is to ensure that a business does not make false representations about their products, whether it is in an advertisement, over the phone, on their website or on product packaging. Although it is OK to state real environmental benefits, those benefits should not be overstated.
Roslyn provided examples of ACCCâ€™s enforcement of the TPA, which include measures such as education, voluntary compliance, administrative resolution, court enforceable undertakings and litigation. In the past five years, the ACCC has taken action over misleading â€˜greenâ€™ claims in a range of products, including washing machines, air conditioners, electricity providers and motor vehicles. Financial penalties include fines of up to $1.1 million for businesses and $220,000 for individuals.
For the refrigeration industry (including domestic, commercial and industrial refrigeration), compliance with energy labelling guidelines such as mandatory Minimum Energy Performance Specifications (MEPS) and Energy Star ratings will be critical. Particularly considering that the change of Federal Government in late 2007 has also precipitated a change in MEPS and labelling policy. As a matter of policy, increases in MEPS stringency will now be implemented in a 3 year cycle.