Australia: ACCC takes action against misleading claims
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has taken action against Woolworths Limited in Federal Court. The ACCC alleged Woolworths’ claims about its picnic products ‘W Select Eco’ were misleading to consumers in contravention of the Australian Consumer Law.
The range of disposable bowls, plates, and cutlery was labelled with such lines as “Biodegradable and Compostable” from November 2014-November 2017.
The ACCC said the use of these labels suggested to customers that the products would biodegrade and compost when disposed of. However, the ACCC alleged that Woolworths failed to substantiate these claims.
ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said customers paid for the product believing the environmental claims made on the label could be substantiated. “The ACCC also alleges that Woolworths made these claims in circumstances where it was aware there was confusion among consumers and businesses about the meaning of biodegradable and compostable,” Court said.
“One of the suppliers of the W Select eco line also had significant qualifications on its website about the biodegradability and compostability of its products.
“Despite all these matters, Woolworths made the representations without explanation or qualification.”
The ACCC have also alleged that Woolworths went against its own Environmental Claims Policy which stated: ‘Environmental claims must be accurate, specific and clear; apply to a real environmental benefit; not overstate a benefit and be articulated in plain language’.
Court said businesses making environmental claims must take the steps to ensure that the benefits are able to be achieved by any customer.
The ACCC is seeking pecuniary penalties, injunctions, declarations, publication orders and costs.