SYDNEY: An Australian carbon credits company has been found guilty by the federal court of making misleading green claims.
The court ruled last week that Prime Carbon, a private company that produces and trades carbon credits created through soil enhancement and carbon sequestration programmes, breached the Trade Practices Act between July 2008 and last December by claiming an association with the National Stock Exchange of Australia that it did not have.
Prime Carbon also made misrepresentations concerning the National Environment Registry during the same period, including an untruth that it had an arrangement with the Chicago environment registry.
The company was taken to court by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) which recently started to scrutinise the growing carbon trade markets to ensure that there were fair practices.
The court also ordered Prime Carbon’s sole director, Kenneth Bellamy, to undertake compliance training to desist from engaging in misleading conduct, and to publicise the court’s orders to its customers on its website, and for the company to pay the ACCC’s court costs.
ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said the result should send a message about “greenwashing your marketing”.
In January, he said there had been an alarming rise in complaints about misleading green advertising, from nothing two years ago to about 500 since early 2008.
He called on parliament to pass laws that would give the ACCC powers to issue fines of up to A$1.1 million.
“Financially there are no implications at the present time for making misleading comments about green issues,” he said.
Several Australian businessmen and businesses have descended on PNG promising ill-informed local landowners millions, even billions, of dollars if they sign their trees over to carbon trading deals, locally known as “sky money”.
South Australia-based company Carbon Planet has told investors that it has secured 25 potential projects in PNG and invested A$1.1 million.
It, however, did not identify the projects.
The company warned that “emerging carbon economy is complicated; (while) unscrupulous traders with phony schemes are taking advantage of a confused marketplace and a lack of education amongst buyers”.
Founder and chief operating officer Dave Sag has refused to elaborate on Carbon Planet’s own involvement in PNG and, in particular, it relationship with self-proclaimed “carbon kingpin” Kirk Roberts.
In December, Sag walked out of an SBS TV interview when asked about Roberts and PNG.