One of the current priorities of the ACCC is the issue of product labelling, credence claims and representations made in relation to place of origin. The ACCC has recently accepted a court enforceable undertaking from Maggie Beer Products Pty Ltd following an investigation in which the company has acknowledged that its conduct was likely to have been in breach of the Australian Consumer Law.
Maggie Beer Product Labelling
The products included “Maggie Beer” branded Ice cream, Aged Red Wine Vinegar, Extra virgin olive oil and Rosemary and verjuice biscuits. Since 2011, the labelling on these products (as well as many other “Maggie Beer” products) made references to the Barossa. The references included:
- a logo with the phrase “Maggie Beer A Barossa Food Tradition”
- “Maggie Beer Products: 2 Keith Street Tanunda South Australia 5352.”
As a result of these representations, the ACCC considered a reasonable consumer would have gained an overall impression that each of these products was manufactured in Tanunda in the Barossa and/or in close proximity. Whilst initially it was understood that these products were sourced and manufactured in South Australia, over time these products were manufactured by third parties in Victoria and Queensland. Whilst there may have been no intention to mislead consumers, the concern is nevertheless what the effects of the representations were on consumers.
Incidentally, the labelling complied with Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) labelling laws.
In addition to the product labelling, in April 2013 Maggie Beer Products Pty Ltd (Maggie Beer Products) made representations to the public during a “Local Fair” in a supermarket that two of the relevant products were made in South Australia or were otherwise “local” products. Maggie Beer Products also made representations to the supermarket that the products were made in South Australia or were otherwise “local” products.
Credence Claims and Place of Origin
Over the last few years there have been a significant number of instances where the ACCC has taken action with respect to credence claims. The ACCC is concerned with the accuracy of representations made about particular products especially where consumers are unable to readily check the accuracy of the claims.
The ACCC has had success with actions involving “free range”, “free to roam”, “organic” as well as place of origin including “King Island” and “Byron Bay” - in certain contexts, consumers are prepared to pay a premium where goods feature specific characteristics such as these. Likewise, the Barossa is recognised not only as a source of premium wine but also for its food products. Branding products as sourced from or manufactured in a particular locality when in fact they are not can result in an unfair competitive advantage over those businesses who have accurately labelled their products.
The ACCC has accepted a court enforceable undertaking from Maggie Beer Products. Maggie Beer Products will amend its labelling on these four products to satisfy the concerns of the ACCC.
Remember, if you manufacture products:
- Ensure that your labelling is accurate and doesn’t mislead consumers.
- Be careful of how you advertise place of origin and where your products (and any components/ ingredients) are manufactured or sourced from.
- Don’t rely on graphic designers or advertising agencies to ensure compliance with laws – get legal advice.
- Ensure labelling is regularly checked and updated.
- Ensure labelling complies with relevant labelling laws and codes.