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Car adverts on billboards and in magazines will now be emblazoned with the car's climate impacts, after the Government yesterday (18 June 2008) agreed to change its advertising guidelines in response to the threat of legal proceedings by the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s and Friends of the Earth.

The fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of vehicles will now have to be prominently displayed, arming consumers with the information they need to choose a greener vehicle - and one that needs to be filled up with fuel less often.

The Department for Transport (DfT) admitted that it had been wrongly interpreting an EU Directive on car advertising, which says that fuel economy and carbon dioxide emissions information must be prominently provided in all promotional literature. The Government has until now exempted `primarily graphical' adverts from the law with the effect that most billboard adverts did not include information about the car's carbon dioxide emissions.

The announcement came in response to a legal letter to the Department for Transport from Friends of the Earth's Rights & Justice Centre acting for the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s. The green organisations wrote to the DfT in March to point out that the UK wasn't abiding with EU law and warned the Government that they would issue Judicial Review proceedings if the guidance was not changed.

Blake Ludwig of the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s, said today:

“From now on, it won't be enough to woo consumers with a sleek and sexy image of a car in billboard ads - car advertisers will need to give real and readable facts about the car's fuel economy and environmental impact. With rising fuel costs and a growing awareness about climate change, this information is crucially important for people to make greener and cheaper choices of vehicle.

“In order to cut emissions from cars, we need both strong regulation on advertising and also strong regulation that forces car manufacturers to make more efficient cars. Today's change in the advertising rules will help encourage car-makers to build more efficient vehicles, something they have so far been very slow to do.”

Phil Michaels, Head of Legal at Friends of the Earth said:

“Until now the UK was getting away with flouting EU legislation on car advertising - but our legal action has closed the loophole.

“Consumers have a right to meaningful information about how much carbon dioxide a car emits and how much fuel it guzzles, so they can choose to buy a car that will be greener and cheaper to run. We will be watching carefully to make sure that the law is now properly enforced.”

See the cars and CO2 campaign website here:
Alliance Against Urban 4x4s website:


1) The EU Directive concerned is European Directive 1999/94/EC. This Directive covers the availability of consumer information on fuel economy and CO2 emissions in the marketing of new cars.

The Directive requires that: “The Member States shall ensure that all promotional literature contains the official fuel consumption and official specific CO2 emission data of the passenger car models to which it refers in accordance with the requirements of Annex IV”. (Art. 6)*

Such `promotional literature' is defined to include “all printed matter used in the marketing, advertising and promotion of vehicles to the general public. It includes as a minimum technical manuals, brochures, advertisements in newspapers, magazines and trade press and posters;” (Art. 2).

[Note that this specifically includes advertisements and posters]

*Annex IV of the Directive requires that the information to be included on the promotional material should “as a minimum” meet the following requirements so far as relevant: “1. Be easy to read and no less prominent than the main part of the information provided in the promotional literature; 2. Be easy to understand even on superficial contact;”

2) The UK Government's current guidance advises that;

"The Regulations define 'promotional literature' as 'all printed matter used in the marketing, advertising and promotion of a new passenger car...'. It is our view that this definition is intended to refer to material with a significant textual content. We do not consider it to cover material which is primarily graphical, where the only textual content is the model name and an advertising slogan. Thus we do not consider the majority of street advertisements to be within the scope of the regulations.”

In their decision letter the Department for Transport stated:

“The Department has been reviewing this guidance and we have concluded that our guidance is incorrect in respect of primarily graphical material. For this reason we will be amending this section of the Guidance Note on the VCA website by close on 20th June to read as follows;

“The Regulations define 'promotional literature' as 'all printed matter used in the marketing, advertising and promotion of a new passenger car...'. We are of the view that this definition does include material which is largely graphical, with limited textual content (perhaps containing only the model name and an advertising slogan). We therefore consider that street advertisements are subject to the requirements of the regulations.”

If you're a journalist looking for press information please contact the Friends of the Earth media team on 020 7566 1649.


Published by Friends of the Earth Trust