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Airlines are having a tough time when it comes to sustainability. Low carbon air transport doesn’t currently exist, however, to the dismay of regulators, airlines advertised “low carbon” options and “carbon offsetting” for years. This led to a litany of lawsuits and enforcement actions we’ve discussed previously – such as the Dutch ruling against KLM, the ongoing California litigation against Delta, and more. We are once again seeing enforcement out of Europe as the European Commission recently announced greenwashing proceedings against 20 airlines through the Consumer Protection Cooperation Network (CPC). The Commission’s press release states:

“The CPC network, led by the Belgian Directorate General for Economic Inspection, the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets, the Norwegian Consumer Authority and the Spanish Directorate General of Consumer Affairs, focused on claims made by airlines that the CO2 emissions caused by a flight could be offset by climate projects or through the use of sustainable fuels, to which the consumers could contribute by paying additional fees. The authorities are concerned that the identified practices can be considered as misleading actions/omissions, prohibited under Articles 5, 6 and 7 of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive. On their part, the airlines are yet to clarify whether such claims can be substantiated based on sound scientific evidence.”

The press release identifies multiple ways that airlines have engaged in misleading marketing practices surrounding their sustainability claims. These include advertising “sustainable aviation fuels” and allowing customers to voluntarily choose an upcharge for carbon offsetting. These proceedings will allow the airlines 30 days to respond to the European Commission after which the Commission will meet with the airlines and discuss paths to compliance. If the airlines are found to not comply with these negotiations then sanctions may be issued.  

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The Editor

Zachary Barlow is a licensed attorney. He earned his JD from the University of Mississippi and has a bachelor’s in Public Policy Leadership. He practiced law at a mid-size firm and handled a wide variety of cases. During this time he assisted in overseeing compliance of a public entity and litigated contract disputes, gaining experience both in and outside of the courtroom. Zachary currently assists the editorial team by providing research and creating content on a spectrum of ESG… View Profile