The penalty, issued today (April 10), comes just months after the retail giant was banned from making ‘freshly baked’ claims on its par-baked products in store after a lengthy court battle with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
Proceedings against the retail giant were initially launched by the ACCC in June 2013 and Coles was found guilty of making misleading ‘baked today, sold today’ and ‘freshly baked in-store’ claims at its in-store bakeries across the country.
Rod Sims, chairman of the ACCC, welcomed the hefty penalty ruling.
“This penalty sends a strong message to companies that they should not use broad phrases in promotions that are deliberately chosen to sell products to consumers but which are likely to mislead consumers,” he said.
“…It’s important that sellers in the market recognize that consumers are entitled to reliable, truthful and accurate information.”
‘Substantial’ and ‘serious’
Chief Justice James Allsop described Coles’ conduct as “substantial and serious”.
“…It is clear that the significant potential to mislead or deceive and thus to damage competitors, the duration of the conduct, and the fact that the goods in relation to which the impugned phrases were used were ‘consumer staples’ indicate that the objective seriousness of the offending conduct was considerable,” he said.
Allsop had previously ordered the retailer to display corrective notices in store and online declaring it had made ‘false, misleading and deceptive representations’.
UK should take note, says Real Bread
UK-based Real Bread Campaign described the ruling as a “victory for shoppers” and said UK authorities should take note.
“In order to protect the rights of shoppers and of local, independent bakers who bake genuinely fresh real bread from scratch in their bakeries, we now call on UK authorities to follow this example with properly enforced legislation,” campaign director Chris Young said.
Young said authorities should consider enforcing legal definitions of ‘freshly baked’, ‘artisan’ and ‘sourdough’ as well as require bakers to fully declare artificial additives, including those used as processing aids and therefore not currently listed on pack.