On 21 February 2013, the ACCC instituted proceedings against Homeopathy Plus! Australia Pty Ltd (“Homeopathy Plus!”) in the Federal Court of Australia over misleading and deceptive claims on its website regarding the effectiveness of the whopping cough (pertussis) vaccine.
Homeopathy Plus! is alleged to have included statements “that the whooping cough vaccine is “unreliable” and “largely ineffective” in preventing whopping cough and that homeopathic remedies are a safe and effective alternative for the prevention and treatment of whopping cough”. Such conduct, if proven, may amount to misleading and deceptive conduct in breach of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth).
It is clear that Homeopathy Plus! is not going to back down – on its website, Fran Sheffield, a Director of Homeopathy Plus! said that, “[we] were told the ACCC would consider settling this matter by consent if we did not contest liability and agreed to the orders sought by the ACCC. This was something Homeopathy Plus and I could not do because we fundamentally still believe the information we supplied to be correct”.
The ACCC’s action against Homeopathy Plus! comes almost a year after the company removed pages from its website following action by the ACCC in relation to representations made about the whopping cough vaccine that the ACCC considered were misleading and deceptive. Rod Sims, Chairman of the ACCC, said in relation to the action taken in May 2012 that, “[t]he combination of claims that the vaccine was ineffective and that the homeopathic remedies listed on the page were an alternative prevention and treatment regime elevated this matter to one of extreme concern”.
The ACCC is seeking an injunction to have the claims removed, as well as penalties against the company and individuals.