Coles, Australia’s second-largest grocer, has paid fines totalling more than A$60,000 for alleged misleading country-of-origin claims.
The retailer was accused of displaying imported navel oranges and kiwi fruit under signs that said ‘Helping Australia Grow’ with the ‘Australian Grown’ symbol.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission visited a number of Coles stores and found the signs were used to advertise imported asparagus and almonds.
The ACCC said stickers on the produce under the display bin showed the overseas country of origin but argued there was an “overwhelming impression” from the Australia-related signs.
“While this does not appear to be a case of widespread or systemic conduct, Helping Australia Grow is a significant national campaign driven hard by Coles to advertise its fresh produce,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said. “This is a lesson to all retailers that they need to take care when undertaking significant advertising campaigns to ensure consumers are not misled by those campaigns.”
Coles paid A$61,200 for the alleged misleading claims, which were found between March and May at stores in Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.
Last month, the ACCC instituted legal proceedings against supermarket giant Coles over alleged “false, misleading and deceptive” conduct on its bread.
The ACCC claimed 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 Cuisine Royale and Coles Bakery branded bread products.