Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has today (12 June) instituted legal proceedings against supermarket giant Coles over alleged “false, misleading and deceptive” conduct in the supply of its bread.

The ACCC claims the grocer was promoting its bread as “baked today” and/or “freshly baked in store” when in fact it had been partially baked and frozen off site, transported to Coles stores and ‘finished’ in-store. The legal action covers various Cuisine Royale and Coles Bakery branded bread products.

The advertising watchdog said the labels promoting these products were likely to mislead consumers into thinking the bread was prepared from scratch in Coles’ in-house bakeries.

“There are two important issues at stake,” said ACCC chairman Rod Sims. “First, consumers must be able to make informed purchasing decisions. Bread is an important grocery basket staple and customers need to be confident in claims made about food they buy.

“Second and just as important, is the detrimental impact on the businesses of competitors. Misleading credence claims can undermine the level playing field and disadvantage other suppliers. In this case those suppliers are the smaller, often franchised bakeries that compete with Coles.”

The ACCC said it is seeking declarations, injunctions, pecuniary penalties, orders that Coles review its compliance programme, orders that Coles publish corrective notices on its website and in Coles supermarkets that have in-store bakeries, and costs.

The first hearing in the case is scheduled for 13 August at 9.30am.

Coles could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press.