The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) says it will begin investigating green claims made about household essentials, over concerns that consumers are ‘paying a premium for products that aren’t what they seem’.

The CMA will examine the accuracy of environmental claims made in advertising of products such as washing up liquid, basic cleaning products and toiletries to ensure that shoppers ‘aren’t being misled’.

With up to 91% of all dishwashing items and 100% of toilet products marketed as green or eco-friendly the CMA’s mission is to ensure that, against the backdrop of the cost of living crisis, consumers are getting what they pay for.

We’re concerned many shoppers are being misled

The investigation will look out for ‘concerning practices’ including broad sustainability claims such as ‘better for the environment’ which are not backed up by evidence – this will include ‘entire ranges being incorrectly branded as sustainable’. Also on the CMA’s radar are misleading claims about the content of recycled or natural materials in a product, as well as how recyclable the packaging is after use.

Sarah Cardell, chief executive of the CMA, comments: “These products are the essentials on everyone’s shopping lists: food and drink, shampoo, laundry detergent, toothpaste, cleaning products. As more people than ever try to do their bit to help protect the environment, we’re concerned many shoppers are being misled and potentially even paying a premium for products that aren’t what they seem, especially at a time when the cost of living continues to rise.

We’ll be scrutinizing companies big and small

“Our work to date has shown there could be greenwashing going on in this sector, and we’ll be scrutinizing companies big and small to see whether their environmental claims stack up. Now is a good time for businesses to review their practices and make sure they’re operating within the law.”

The work forms part of the CMA’s Annual Plan consultation 2023-2024 which details the Authority’s strategy for promoting environmental sustainability and ‘accelerating the UK’s transition to a net zero economy’. Should the investigators uncover evidence of unfounded green claims it will consider ‘taking enforcement action using its formal powers’ – for example, launching an investigation into specific companies, as it did with ASOS, Boohoo and George at Asda during its 2022 probe into the fashion sector.