California’s AG and SoCalGas settle over misleading “renewable” natural gas claims

California’s AG and SoCalGas settle over misleading “renewable” natural gas claims

California Attorney General Rob Bonta has reached a settlement with Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) following an investigation into the company’s misleading environmental marketing claims made in 2019. The claims asserted that natural gas distributed by SoCalGas was “renewable,” a statement found to be inaccurate. The majority of natural gas, including that distributed by SoCalGas, is derived from fossil fuels.

The investigation conducted by the California Attorney General’s office uncovered that SoCalGas had disseminated these misleading statements across various mediums, including print, electronic media, informative displays, backdrops, and promotional materials. While SoCalGas cooperated with the investigation, it was deemed that the company, as a significant and knowledgeable entity, should have been aware of the inaccuracy of its claims.

Attorney General Bonta emphasized the importance of truth in marketing and underscored that such practices are legally required under state law. He stated, “Today’s settlement should send a clear message: The California Department of Justice is committed to holding accountable corporations that mislead or deceive consumers about the environmental attributes of a product.”

The settlement, which resolves allegations of violations of California’s consumer protection laws, including the Unfair Competition Law and the False Advertising Law, places significant restrictions on SoCalGas. The company is now prohibited from making unqualified statements asserting that natural gas is “renewable.” In addition to this restriction, SoCalGas is obligated to pay US$175,000 in penalties.

Of the penalty amount, US$87,500 will be directed towards the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Justice Small Grants Program. This funding will support a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) dedicated to addressing environmental justice concerns. SoCalGas is also mandated to publish a corrective statement on its website within 14 days of the settlement’s effective date.

The settlement represents a significant step towards accountability in environmental marketing claims and reinforces the need for accurate and transparent information for consumers. Meanwhile, SoCalGas’s acknowledgment of the settlement and its commitment to rectify its marketing statements marks an important development in promoting responsible corporate conduct and upholding consumer trust.

SOURCE: State of California Department of Justice – Office of the Attorney General