On December 2009, the Centre for Protection against Unfair Competition filed a suit against a corporation for misleading advertisement. The defendant, who sold grave lights, had advertised these on product labels and in a catalogue as ‘climate neutral’ and ‘CO2 neutral’. The Centre for Protection against Unfair Competition filed a claim in the Regional Court of Koblenz arguing that the advertising claims were misleading.
On January 2011, the Regional Court of Koblenz concluded that the advertising claims ‘CO2 neutral’ and ‘climate neutral’ were misleading and breached § 5 para. 1 of the Act against Unfair Competition. The Court held that consumers understood this advertising in the sense of the grave lights not having a negative impact on the CO2-content of the atmosphere.
The defendant appealed this decision and stated that consumers understood the advertising claims ‘CO2 neutral’ and ‘climate neutral’ as meeting the technical requirements of these terms. The defendant argued that, in any case, they were taking measures to compensate the CO2 emissions by planting trees.
On August 2011, the Higher Regional Court of Koblenz upheld the Regional Court’s ruling. In doing so, it relied on the strict standard established by the German Federal Court of Justice on environment-related advertising claims. The Higher Regional Court insisted that climate neutrality meant complete compensation of CO2 emissions. It found that the compensation measures such as planting trees had not sufficed to achieve complete compensation, in fact, the CO2 footprint had not even been calculated. The appeal was therefore upheld under § 5 para. 1 of the Act against Unfair Competition.