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GREEN AND SAFE CLAIMS: WHAT CAN YOU SAY?

When making environmental (Green) claims or claims about safety, it’s important to know what you can and cannot say under Consumer law and the Agvet Code.

‘Environmentally friendly’. ‘Green’. ‘Safe for children and pets’. These are three common claims used by pest control companies in their marketing materials. Many view such claims as marketing fluff or puffery, but actually there are strict rules around what you can and cannot say.

For anyone making ‘environmentally friendly’ or ‘green’ claims, you should familiarise yourself with the ACCC document, ‘Green marketing and Australia Consumer Law’, which is available on the ACCC website. These laws were brought in specifically to counter the wide misuse of such marketing claims and to protect the consumer from companies making claims that cannot be justified. The key take out is thus:

“If you wish to make environmental claims about your business or your product, they should be honest, accurate and able to be substantiated. You should clearly explain, in simple language, the significance of the benefit to the environment.”

This means you cannot simply state, for example, that your treatments are ‘environmentally friendly’. The statement needs to be qualified with information as to why the treatment is environmentally friendly. Remember, the ACCC has a wide range of penalties and remedies for those breaching Australian Consumer Law.

Although there is a specific document focusing on green marketing, the same general rules apply to all marketing under consumer law – the claim needs to be supported by fact.

Making claims that treatments are ‘safe’ is covered under the Agvet (Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals) Code as well as under general consumer law.

There are two important observations regarding the use of the term ‘safe’ in relation to pest control products. Firstly, there are no pest control products that state they are safe to use around children and pets. That said, here’s the second point: all registered pest control products are deemed to be of acceptable risk if used in accordance with the label. For example, many insecticidal spray products will state that pets should be excluded during treatment until the treatment has dried. Meaning that after drying there is minimal risk to humans or pets. This does not mean you can say it is ‘safe’.

There are two particular parts of the Agvet code of which pest managers should be aware. Firstly: “Section 84 of the Agvet Code specifically deals with claims made on product labels. Persons must not make any claim, or permit any claim to be made in respect of a registered chemical product that is not consistent with the approved label for that product.”

Secondly, a number of statements about chemical products are prohibited, particularly: “Statements which expressly or impliedly claim (however the claim is stated), without any qualification or with a qualification that, in the APVMA’s opinion, is unjustified, to the effect that a chemical product is natural, organic, safe, harmless, non-toxic, non-poisonous, non-injurious or environmentally-friendly.”

Pest managers should be aware of the governing regulations and tread carefully when it comes to marketing the services they offer.