After the case was sent to the Norwegian Consumer Agency, it became clear that Telenor had no marketing coverage for the SWAP scheme. Telenor apologizes and has now removed all claims that the scheme is “good for the environment”.
“We are very pleased that there is a well-established principle now that you cannot get rid of claims on the environment and sustainability without being able to document them,” Troels Julusen, President of The Nature Conservancy, tells VG.
It’s a shame to trick people into thinking they’re doing something good for the environment when you can’t even document it.
In May, the Nature Conservancy Telenor complained about its swap scheme to the Complaints Board for environmental information.
The scheme that Telenor marketed with the old mobile phone “Get a new life” When it is replaced with a new one, according to the Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature, it leads to increased consumption.
So they responded to Telenor by announcing it as something environmentally friendly and sustainable.
On the Appeals Board, Telenor was ordered to answer The Nature Conservancy’s questions about sustainability.
When the Nature Conservancy got the company’s answers, they became more confident in their case: Telenor could hardly claim the scheme was good for the environment.
So the environmental organization complained about the SWAP announcement to the Norwegian Consumer Agency. Last week, it became clear that their complaint was upheld, as Telenor could not comply with the documentation requirements of its claims.
The company has now removed all advertising claims about sustainability and the environment on its website.
I thought it was a “misunderstanding”
In the first process at the Complaints Board for Environmental Information, Telenor was asked to answer the following questions from the Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature:
- How long does a phone that is part of a SWAP scheme last on average before it is taken apart for recycling?
- How long does it take for the first customer to get the phone before it is exchanged for a new one through the SWAP system?
The first question that the company could not answer.
In the second question, Telenor mentioned that subscribers have on average had their cell phones for 21 months before replacing them. According to a survey conducted by the electronics industry, Norwegians own their mobile phone on average 32.5 months before they get a new one.
This means that with a Telenor SWAP subscription, customers replace the phone an average of 11.5 months faster than the average in Norway, the Nature Conservation Society VG reported.
However, the company initially thought it was a “misunderstanding, as Telenor sees it, that our exchange offering, SWAP, is not environmentally friendly because the exchange extends the life of a mobile phone.”
Read the full answer on Telenor in the facts box below.
Failed to submit documents
The Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature did not purchase Telenor’s response to the Environmental Information Appeal Board.
When a complaint about the case was submitted to the consumer agency, they were asked for more detailed environmental information which is the basis for the claim that “a SWAP scheme has environmental benefits compared to purchasing a mobile phone outside of a SWAP scheme”.
In response to the Norwegian Consumer Agency, Telenor wrote:
“Although we consider our SWAP exchange concept to have a positive impact on the environment through plant reuse, the documentation requirements, as requested by the Norwegian Consumer Agency, are not present in our case.”
They also state that they have subsequently removed the page called “Reuse” from the SWAP page, the question “Is SWAP good for the environment” from the “FAQ” and the wording “good for you, good for the environment”.
Telenor: – We’re sorry
When asked if the company agrees that it deceived customers into believing they were using an environmentally friendly service, Anders Crokan, Press Director of Telenor replied:
We have a real opinion that Swap is having a positive impact on the environment by reusing mobile phones. At the same time, we must admit that we did not document the claim. We’ve noticed, and we’ve changed the way it’s presented in our marketing.
Have you informed existing Swap customers that the service is not considered “environmentally friendly and sustainable,” as stated when purchasing the service?
– We checked all the places where environmental arguments are mentioned and changed. It’s important to note that the swap program has not been shown to be environmentally friendly and sustainable, but the problem is that Telenor has not provided documentation that the scheme is sustainable and environmentally friendly, Crokan wrote.
We regret that we submitted environmental claims without providing the necessary documents.
‘Greenwashing’ is believed to be a growing problem
“We are very pleased that this case has now set a precedent for what companies selling such subscriptions can and cannot say about sustainability and the environment,” says Golosen.
It refers to the use and disposal community as a major environmental problem in general, and thus they immediately reacted to the barter scheme.
The electronics industry designs for short periods, at the same time as it rolls out products that people “must have.” Then this chart comes to the fore, where you can change to the latest model for free, says Golosen.
He stresses that they will try similar ads in the future, because the so-called “greenwashing” of products and companies — misleading marketing where something is presented as more environmentally friendly than it actually is — is a growing problem.
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