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ACCC challenges Saab’s green claims

Green, or is it?: Saab has made big claims for its biopower campaign.

Grrrrrreen advertising claims land Holden’s Swedish stablemate in consumer court

Saab logo19 Feb 2008

THE Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has instituted legal proceedings against Saab over its ‘Grrrrrreen’ advertising campaign, which is alleged to have engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and false representations.

The court action against Saab Australia - a wholly owned subsidiary of GM Holden Ltd, which distributes and markets Saab vehicles in Australia - dates back to January 18 and was the subject of a directions hearing on February 6 in Perth’s Federal Court, which set out a timeline for the way the case will be heard.

The ACCC alleges that Saab misrepresented its position in a number of “Saab is Green” newspaper and magazine advertisements published in July and August 2007, which made various statements including “Grrrrrreen”, “Every Saab is green”, “Carbon emissions neutral across the entire Saab range”, “Switch to carbon neutral motoring” and the fact it would plant 17 native trees in the first year following a Saab vehicle purchase as a carbon offset.

Australia’s consumer watchdog has deemed that the advertisements represented to consumers that: the net amount of carbon-dioxide released into the atmosphere by any Saab vehicle, over the life of that vehicle, would be zero that planting 17 native trees on behalf of the purchaser of a Saab vehicle would offset the carbon dioxide emissions for the life of the vehicle and that Saab vehicles have some attribute or attributes which contribute to reduced carbon-dioxide emissions by those vehicles compared with Saab vehicles supplied prior to the publication of the advertisement.

The ACCC alleges that the “Saab is Green” advertisements were misleading and that Saab has breached sections 52 and 53(c) of the Trade Practices Act 1974 because: there would, in fact, be a net release of carbon-dioxide into the atmosphere by the operation of any motor vehicle in the Saab range planting 17 native trees would not provide a carbon-dioxide offset for any period other than a single year’s operation of any motor vehicle in the Saab range and Saab vehicles do not have any attribute or attributes which contribute to reduced carbon-dioxide emissions by those vehicles compared with Saab vehicles supplied prior to the publication of the advertisement.

 center imageThe ACCC has sought declarations that Saab has breached ss52 and 53(c) of the Trade Practices Act, injunctions restraining Saab from similar conduct in the future, corrective notices, a review of GM Holden's trade practices compliance program, and court costs.

Saab says it will meet with the ACCC in coming weeks to seek a resolution to the matter and that until such time there is nothing further to add to its public position on the issue, last updated on February 14, which reads: “GM Holden, and Saab, takes its responsibilities as an advertiser very seriously and we're keen to speak to and resolve the matter with the ACCC.

“The ‘Grrrrreen’ campaign in question sought to communicate Saab's participation with Greenfleet’s carbon offset program.

“The ACCC initially contacted Saab in August last year in relation to the wording of several ads in the campaign which ran for approximately 10 weeks between July and September 2007.

“It was never Saab's intention to mislead or confuse consumers in relation to its participation in this carbon offset program, and if there was any argument that our advertising was confusing, we were only too happy to promptly take steps to address any concerns. We did not hear from the ACCC until we were notified last week that they had filed proceedings against us. We were very surprised given we had believed that our response had indeed addressed those concerns.

“Saab's offset program through Greenfleet began in January 2007 and is ongoing. Greenfleet continues to plant 17 native trees on behalf of Saab for every new and demonstrator Saab vehicle sold in Australia, which is calculated to offset 12 months worth of carbon emissions produced by a vehicle.

“The nature of the Greenfleet program itself is not being disputed by the ACCC. Saab, and other manufacturers, continue to purchase these ‘offsets’ through Greenfleet for its vehicles.

“We are meeting with the ACCC to discuss the matter and attempt to resolve the issue.

“Saab stands by the environmental leadership it has taken globally, and locally with the Greenfleet offset program across the range and the launch of vehicles such as BioPower.

“Saab BioPower is a flex-fuel vehicle, and Australia's first ethanol production car, which is capable of running on the renewable E85 fuel that will be available commercially in Australia for the first time in the coming months.”

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