ACCC appeals decision on Woolworths disposable picnic products

5 August 2019

The ACCC has appealed the Federal Court’s decision to dismiss its case against Woolworths relating to the environmental claims Woolworths made about their ‘W Select eco’ picnic products.

The ACCC had alleged Woolworths made false or misleading claims about its range of disposable plates, bowls and cutlery which were labelled “biodegradable and compostable”.

Part of the ACCC’s case was that these claims were about future matters and that Woolworths did not have reasonable grounds to make them.  The Court dismissed the ACCC’s allegations in July 2019.

The trial judge found that the likely performance of Woolworths’ picnic products was not a ‘future matter’ because the reference to “biodegradable and compostable” was about the inherent characteristics of the product rather than a prediction, forecast, promise or opinion of a future event.

Accordingly, the Court was not required to consider whether Woolworths had reasonable grounds for making the claims. The Court did, however, find that if Woolworths had made the claims in the terms alleged by the ACCC, it would not have had reasonable grounds to do so.

“We are appealing this case because we think that the biodegradable and compostable claims made by Woolworths were predictions about what would happen to these products in the future,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

“Consumers who pay more for products which businesses represent are better for the environment should be able to assume those claims are true.”

“If businesses make claims about future matters, they must have a reasonable basis for those claims,” Mr Sims said.

A hearing for the appeal before the Full Federal Court will be set at a later date.

Background:

The ACCC first took action against Woolworths in March 2018.

The Australian Consumer Law requires a business to have reasonable grounds for making representations when those representations are with respect to ‘future matters’.

Release number: 
136/19
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