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Abuse of consumer trust in the digital market and the green market: the case of green washing in the Italian legal system

Gabriella Marcatajo (Department of DEMS, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy)

Journal of Financial Crime

ISSN: 1359-0790

Article publication date: 27 December 2022

31

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to offer some reflection on the abuse of consumer trust and the importance of control of information in the digital market and the green market. The role of the consumer as the arbiter of the market is fundamental. The abuse of consumer confidence depends, in fact, on the spread of stereotyped messages and vague and generic formulas aimed at hiding a dangerous vacuum of protection. In both markets, it is a question of giving the consumer the necessary tools to monitor the transparency of the criteria used by the trader to classify a product according to its characteristics.

Design/methodology/approach

Based on the analysis of an Italian case law and the European programme, the author shows how in Italy there is a dangerous lack of consumer protection. The problem is that the green consumer, as well as the online consumer, is not able to immediately verify the accuracy of the product requirements and must be able to count on the seriousness of the professional. For this reason, the European and national authorities have provided specific rules for both markets. The new proposal of directive introduces specific rules to target unfair commercial practices that mislead consumers away from sustainable consumption choices and introduced many innovations, such as the ban on greenwashing.

Findings

This work aims to identify the tools necessary to make the information on the products offered in the digital market and those related to green products more reliable but above all to create a common methodology on which to base them. High is the risk that sustainability will become a simple marketing strategy for companies. The difficulty consists in the absence of certain and verifiable parameters by the consumer to really measure the characteristics and the quality of a product characteristic of a product compared to competing ones.

Originality/value

This work examines the problem of consumer protection in the digital and green market from a new perspective, comparing the information asymmetries with respect to the professionals in the two markets. Starting from the cases of greenwashing and analysing new European remedies, the author suggests for both markets, specific answers different from those required for advertising in general. The problem here is not only the truth of the message but also the vagueness and genericity. The consumer must be in a position to control the criteria used by the professional to classify products, both in the green and the digital market. To the best of the author’s knowledge, this paper is the original work of the author and has not been submitted elsewhere for publication.

Keywords

Citation

Marcatajo, G. (2022), "Abuse of consumer trust in the digital market and the green market: the case of green washing in the Italian legal system", Journal of Financial Crime, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/JFC-10-2022-0242

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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