New disclosure requirements towards consumers
Published on 1st Dec 2021
Concerns about the information provided to consumers regarding the environmental characteristics or impacts of products are not new. Provisions relating to environmental claims were introduced by the Energy Transition Law for Green Growth of 17 August 2015. Indeed, it required producers voluntarily making an environmental communication or claim concerning their products to make available the main environmental characteristics of such products.
In a context of increasing use of environmental claims, consumer information has recently been reinforced by the law n°2020-105 of February 10, 2020 on the fight against waste and the circular economy (known as the "AGEC Law") and the law n°2021-1104 of August 22, 2021 on combating climate change and strengthening resilience to its effects (known as the "Climate Law").
1. Environmental characteristics of products
From 1 January 2022, producers or importers of waste generating products will have to inform consumers of the environmental characteristics of their products.
- What pieces of information must be provided? These operators must inform consumers re. the durability of their product, its compostability and reparability, its reusability, recyclability, re. the presence of hazardous substances, precious metals or rare earths, the use of renewable resources or the incorporation of recycled materials in the product.
- How? Through marking, labelling or display. The consumer must be able to see or access this information at the time of purchase.
The producer or importer must also make this information available to the public electronically, in a format that can be easily re-used and exploited by an automated processing system, in an aggregated form.
- Further details are expected: a decree should specify the definition of the environmental qualities and characteristics that must be disclosed, the procedures for establishing them, the categories of products concerned and the means for informing consumers.
2. Environmental impact of products or services
The Climate Law provides for the gradual introduction of mandatory labelling to inform consumers about the environmental impact of a product or service, as well as about compliance with social criteria. This replaces the provisions of the AGEC Act, which had the same purpose.
- What information? Information concerns the environmental impact of products or services over their entire life cycle, particularly with regard to their greenhouse gas emissions, their effects on biodiversity, and their consumption of water and natural resources. This also takes into account the production systems of the relevant goods and services.
- How is this done? The information must be provided by means of marking, labelling or display. The consumer must be able to see or access this information at the time of purchase.
- What timeframe?
First, an experimental phase lasting up to five years will take place. The first concerned sectors are textile, clothing, foodstuffs, furniture, hotel and electronic products sectors.
During this period, any claim/information relating to the environmental impact of a product or service or to compliance with social criteria will be on a voluntary basis and will have to mention its experimental nature.
A decree will then specify the goods and services for which provision of the information is mandatory, as well as the methodology to be used and the disclosure methods that must be followed. The size of the company responsible for providing the information and the volumes of products processed will be taken into account.
Companies whose products are not subject to these obligations will also be able to communicate on the environmental impact of their products, provided they comply with the decree's requirements.
- Sanctions: any failure to comply with the display obligations will be punished by an administrative fine of up to €3,000 for an individual and €15,000 for a company. Any use or display of information relating to the environmental impact of a product that does not comply with the requirements of the law will be punishable by the same penalties.