Background to the dispute
The beer bottle bore the Munich address, which represents the brewery’s administrative headquarters. The defendant had argued, among other things, that the indication of the administrative centre on the bottle was required by law.
According to the Munich I Regional Court, consumers would infer the production site of Wunderbräu from the label on the back of the beer bottle (with the street known for breweries in Munich). This information misleads consumers about the production site/place of origin, as Wunderbräu does not produce in Munich. This constitutes a deception of origin that is also capable of influencing consumers’ decisions. This is irrespective of the fact that the “designation in itself is also permissible for the defendant as a distribution company and the indication as a whole also fulfils the legal requirements”.
“Climate neutral” and “CO2 positive balance”
The defendant had argued that a QR code on the bottle informed consumers about the CO2-positive and climate-neutral production.
According to the court, this information is also unlawfully misleading. In the age of “greenwashing” – where false or misleading claims are made about the environmental friendliness of a product, service or company – consumers have an interest in being precisely informed about the measures taken. This includes information on how climate neutrality is achieved and what offsetting measures are taken. Assessment criteria for “CO2 positive” and “climate-neutral production” must therefore be disclosed on the beer bottle.
In the present case, the environmentally friendly advertising on the beer bottle does not indicate that further information is available on the homepage. The QR code provided by the defendant is located on the beer bottle at a distance from the environmental advertising. There must be a clear and unambiguous reference to a link on the beer bottle with regard to the environmental advertising (especially because the consumer has to go online to obtain the information).The court also added that the QR code did not lead directly to a website explaining the climate-friendly measures – consumers would have to click through to get to the information.
There were also considerable doubts as to whether the information provided on the defendant’s website was sufficient. There is no precise information there, neither about the carbon footprint nor the extent to which climate neutrality is to be achieved through compensation measures or savings.
The advertising of the beer with “CO2 positive” or “climate-neutral production” on the beer bottle is therefore unlawfully misleading (Section 5 UWG) and must be omitted.
The judgement is not legally binding.
To the point
An address on the beer bottle can be misleading as regards to its origin if there is a risk that consumers think that this is the place where the beer is produced. This is against Section 5 UWG.
In the age of greenwashing, a high degree of transparency must be required for environmental advertising on a product, i.e. the consumer must be able to obtain clear and unambiguous information about the climate-friendly measures. Otherwise, this also constitutes a misleading commercial practice, Section 5 UWG.