The French antitrust authority (Autorité de la concurrence) has announced it is starting inquiries ex officio to analyse the competitive functioning of the product rating systems sector, in particular when it aims to provide consumers with information on the sustainability-related characteristics of consumer products and services.

Available via digital applications or labels that voluntarily affixed by manufacturers, these rating systems focus on nutritional quality, environmental impact, energy efficiency, and so on, said the French Authority. Present in a wide range of sectors (agri-food, cosmetics, textiles, toys, household appliances, interior design and tourist accommodation), some systems may be created by public bodies, while others are offered by consumer associations or independent companies in the sector of the products or services rated. Lastly, some rating systems are the result of individual or collective initiatives by companies in the same markets.

The Autorité intends to analyse how the information provided by the rating systems is likely to guide consumer purchasing decisions and thus constitute a parameter of competition. It will examine whether the systems encourage companies to innovate to create products or services that are more virtuous in terms of sustainability. In addition, the Autorité will explore the question of relevant markets with a view to providing a market analysis grid. Lastly, it will strive to understand the consequences for competition of the multiplication and coexistence of rating systems within the same sector.

Rating applications — such as Yuka, Beautylitic and Clear Formula — have disrupted the cosmetics market in France, and strongly stimulated the demand for products of natural origin. But manufacturers are not left out and are also seeking to implement rating scales, particularly in environmental matters, with the Green Impact Index or EcoBeautyScore projects.