September 7, 2011 • 1:00 pm

An important correction has been obtained through the PCC over the cost of green taxes.

Several months ago, Full Fact raised doubts over a claim published in the Daily Mail that ‘green’ taxes would add £200 to household energy bills.

The claim originally came from the Global Warming Policy Foundation(GWPF), but referenced estimates in government documents.

These official estimates did not substantiate the £200 figure, although GWPF argued that there were other costs not included in these estimates which would increase bills.

Not content with this answer, climate change factcheckers Carbon Brief made a complaint to the PCC, on the grounds that the figure used by the Mail was inaccurate.

Today a correction has been printed in the Daily Mail, following Carbon Brief’s complaint.

It states: “”Articles from June 9 reported comments from Dr Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which suggested that ‘green stealth taxes’ add 15 to 20 percent to energy bills. According to Ofgem, the correct figure for environmental costs is currently no more than 9%. We are happy to clarify this”

The correction is important in its own right, but has a wider significance for how the accuracy of claims made by the press is regulated.

What this correction suggests is that newspapers can be pressed to print corrections for reporting inaccurate claims made by others. Even if, as in this case, the newspaper was accurately reporting the estimate of another organisation, and the organisation in question apparently still stood by that estimate. (It is still on the GWPF website.)

This could mean that when claims are made by charities, thinktanks, campaigning organisations, Whitehall Departments, and those claims turn out to be inaccurate, a newspaper which repeats this information could still be made to correct the record.

The nature of the correction suggests the principle could even extend beyond clear open and shut cases of accuracy. After all, the wording of the correction states that the correct figure “according to Ofgem” rather than being the correct figure outright. So the Mail itself is not actually saying the original figure was wrong.

Even if the Mail and GWPF stand by the original figure, that the official estimate was not included has been deemed a significant enough omission to warrant a printed correction.

But nevertheless the publication of this correction sets a precedent and establishes a principle that Full Fact will be pushing to see upheld with future complaints.


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