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Recently, an Australian Federal Court imposed a $50,000 penalty on a Victorian butcher who made false and misleading representations that his meat was from King Island, when in fact very little or none of the meat was from King Island. This Australian decision is a useful reminder for you about place of origin claims, particularly as 'made in New Zealand claims' are a current hot topic with the New Zealand Commerce Commission.

New Zealand's Fair Trading Act requires that any place of origin claims must not be misleading or deceptive. There is no hard and fast rule on what constitutes a place of origin claim such as 'made in New Zealand'. The relevant considerations will vary depending on the nature of the product and what consumers may understand about it. Remember that a consumer's understanding of whether a product is made in New Zealand may differ from a technical description, a cost analysis or a tariff definition of a product's overseas content.

An issue which may be of concern for you, is that some of your products have some ingredients or components which are made elsewhere, yet you still wish to claim that your product is New Zealand made. For these products, considerations when making 'made in New Zealand' claims may include whether the product was 'substantially' manufactured in New Zealand. According to the Commerce Commission, 'substantially' may include where the critical part(s) of the product were manufactured, or whether any significant stages of manufacture were carried out overseas. Food items require additional considerations. For many food items, the place of origin of the raw ingredients will also be important.

To avoid penalties like the one imposed in Australia, first ensure that you do not make a statement that your product is New Zealand made if it is not. Second, remember that it is not just the words that can be misleading. Symbols which are iconic to a particular country, such as kiwis, flags, or other national emblems on product packaging can also convey false or misleading impressions about a place of origin.

What can you learn from this?

Be careful when making claims about the origins of your product. These claims must always be accurate. If in doubt, just give us a call.