The controversy arose when Dell complained to the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus about Apple's claims. NAD is the advertising industry's self-governing body, and its rulings do not carry the force of law.
The NAD in general found that Apple does, indeed, carry a very green line of notebooks, and noted:
While other manufacturers may have subcategories of lines with similar ratings, none has comparable high ratings for all of the notebooks it produces
That certainly sounds like a win for Apple, and Apple played it that way. According to Macworld, an Apple spokesperson said:
"The NAD's ruling is a clear victory for Apple. The case challenged our claim to the 'world's greenest family of notebooks,' and NAD has confirmed that MacBooks are in fact the world's greenest notebook computers when compared to other manufacturers' product lines as a whole."However, Macworld pointed out that the NAD also noted that some laptop brands, such as the Portege family from Toshiba, have higher EPEAT ratings than MacBooks. EPEAT is the most commonly used standard for green PCs. There's confusion because of the difference between a brand and a family. So, for example, all MacBooks are greener than all Toshiba notebooks, but one line in the Toshiba brand is greener than MacBooks.
Because of that confusion, the NAD found that the tagline that Apple uses -- "The New MacBooks. The world's greenest family of notebooks" -- is too broad a statement. According to the New York Times:
The NAD therefore recommended that Apple modify its "world’s greenest family of notebooks" claim, "to make clearer that the basis of comparison is between all MacBooks to all notebooks made by a given competitor." It also suggested that Apple "avoid the reference to 'world's greenest' — given the potential for overstatement."No word yet on whether Apple will comply.