Freshly laid claims

The free range egg debate continues to (hard) boil with the ACCC initiating proceedings late last year against 3 different companies (Derodi, Holland Farms and Darling Downs) for their “free range” egg claims. The prosecutions followed an ACCC win against Pirovic eggs for misleading free range claims.

The ACCC’s position is that ‘free range’ means that the laying hens should be able to go outside and move around freely on an open range on most days (cue rolling hills, feathers blowing in the wind, slow motion...). The tough part for egg producers is that the regulator won’t mandate a standard, and non-compulsory standards vary substantially. The ACCC is intent on cracking down on the industry, which should encourage more transparency by producers.

In the meantime, if you’re serious about letting your hens run free, you might want to do some research before assuming your eggs are morally virtuous.

Sneakers not the answer

So, apparently Miranda Kerr’s looks are not attributable to her Reeboks; who would have guessed? For those who purchased a pair of Reebok EasyTone shoes in the hope of becoming a Victoria’s Secret Angel, we have some bad news.  Reebok has been ordered to pay a penalty of $350,000 for claiming on their shoe boxes, tags and promotional material, that walking in their EasyTone shoes would increase the strength and muscle tone of the consumer’s calves, thighs and buttocks.

The Court found Reebok’s claims were unfounded and in addition to the penalty required Reebok to provide a refund of $35 to customers who had purchased the shoes.

Homeopathic treatments whooped

Homeopathy Plus! and its director, Frances Sheffield (and no, that’s not the nanny named Fran) falsely claimed that the whooping cough vaccine was ineffective at preventing whooping cough and that homeopathic remedies were a safe alternative to the vaccine.

The Court found that there was no scientific or medical basis for the claims made by Homeopathy Plus! and that they were completely against the advice of the government and medical professionals. This is the second time that the company has been pursued by the ACCC; in 2012 it removed similar claims from its website after requests to do so by the ACCC. The claims reappeared on the website in 2013, which led to the recent ACCC proceedings.

Dirty laundry for appliance companies

As part of its focus on consumer guarantees, the ACCC instigated proceedings against Fisher & Paykel and Domestic & General for sending letters to consumers which stated that they would not be protected against repair costs for their appliance after the manufacturer’s warranty period unless they purchased an extended warranty.

Despite the letters containing fine print directing the consumers to the relevant parts of the Australian Consumer Law, the Court found that the letters were misleading and each company was ordered to pay a penalty of $200,000.

There are two lessons from this one. First, qualifying statements heavily or changing their meaning in a disclaimer is a dangerous game. Second, the ACCC is pretty dubious about extended warranty offers given that the ACL statutory guarantees apply for as long as is reasonable.