On 3 June 2010 the Advertising Code Committee (“RCC”) allowed a complaint from environmental organization Greenpeace about an advertising campaign of the oil company Trafigura. The RCC ruled that Trafigura had violated the rules of the Dutch Advertising Code in this advertising campaign, which concerned the Probo Koala affair. In half-page-sized advertisements about the Probo Koala affair,
which Trafigura had published in the fall of 2009 in all Dutch national newspapers, Trafigura maintained, among other things, that it ‘strives for a good substantiation of its economic and social involvement in the West African region’. The RCC considered this statement to be misleading within the meaning of the Dutch Advertising Code.
The advertisements also stated that the English High Court had confirmed that the shipping waste of the Probo Koala could not cause any lethal or other serious injuries. Greenpeace had also directed its complaints against this allegation, since it suggested that there was a court judgment in which Trafigura was fully exonerated from blame in the Probo Koala affair. In reality this is not the case. All the English court has done is confirm a settlement between Trafigura and the Ivorian victims of the poisonous waste. However, the RCC did not consider this statement to be misleading, because according to the RCC Trafigura made it sufficiently clear in the advertisement that there was in fact no judgment involved, but a settlement. Other parts of Greenpeace’s complaint were also not considered by the RCC to have overstepped the boundaries of the Advertising Code.
Nevertheless, the Commission did consider the statement ‘Trafigura strives for a good substantiation of its economic and social involvement in the West African region’ to be misleading, as has been said above. Greenpeace had explained in its complaint why in its view Trafigura did not exactly have the best intentions with the West African region. Greenpeace particularly addressed the actions of Trafigura around the dumping of poisonous waste of the Probo Koala in Ivory Coast. Trafigura had not defended itself on this point, because as it stated, criminal proceedings were also pending about the Probo Koala affair. However, in the opinion of Greenpeace the Dutch procedural rules do not stand in the way of Trafigura expressing an opinion about the affair while the criminal proceedings are pending. Moreover, Greenpeace states in a press release, it was Trafigura that chose to publish big advertisements about this subject.
The RCC held on the basis of the documents submitted by Greenpeace that the statement made by Trafigura contains incorrect information and is therefore misleading within the meaning of the Dutch Advertising Code. It advised Trafigura not to advertise in such a way anymore.