Federation of Consumers and Users (CECU), Ecologists in Action (Ecologistas en Acción) and Greenpeace Spain filed two complaints against Repsol for misleading advertising in April 2024. The complaints target Repsol's communication about its biofuels and are filed at the General Directorate of Consumer Affairs and the CNMC.

The main objective of the complaint is for Repsol to eliminate and rectify its false promises, as well as any form of greenwashing in its statements. Repsol's behavior violates the Consumer Protection Law, the Advertising Law, the Competition Defense Law and the Unfair Competition Law and their bioful ads are riddled with partial and/or misleading information, the organisations state.

Deforestation and palm oil

The complaints follow an investigation that took place in 2022 and 2023, focusing on the impact of Repsol's activity on deforestation in Indonesia and its contribution to the increase in emissions responsible for climate change.

Spain is the main importer of palm oil from Indonesia and the largest producer of biofuels in the EU. In Spain, 72.5% of biodiesel and almost 100% of hydrobiodiesel is manufactured with palm oil. And the Repsol company is one of the main importers of palm oil and producer of biodiesel with this oil.

Based on the expert reports, the complaining organizations conclude that the Repsol company hides in its public communication and advertising the deforestation and other environmental and social impacts caused by the production of palm oil that is used to manufacture its biofuels. The palm oil it uses is not sustainable and does not reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional fossil fuel, contributing to global warming and causing deforestation and loss of biodiversity.

Misleading green claims

The legal action focuses on the claims that the Repsol company makes about its “biofuels”, which it describes in its public communication as “sustainable”, “eco-fuels”, “carbon neutral”, “with a low carbon footprint” or “renewable”, in a general and equivocal manner, without distinguishing between the different products offered and without specifying their attributes or environmental impact, which is misleading for citizens. Its marketing and advertising strategy leads to confusion among citizens, as it is plagued by partial information, vagueness, concealment of relevant information or directly misleading environmental allegations.

“Repsol cannot claim that biofuels made from palm oil reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If we take into account the deforestation caused by the expansion of palm oil crops, the consumption of biodiesel made from this material emits three times more polluting gases than fossil fuels, thus aggravating global warming," declared Josep Hurtado of Ecologists in Action.