Arnott’s Biscuits Ltd (Arnott’s) has paid penalties totalling $51,000 following the issue of five infringement notices by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission relating to representations made by Arnott’s about its Shapes Light & Crispy product. Arnott’s also provided a court enforceable undertaking to the ACCC.
Arnott’s represented on the packs of four varieties of Shapes Light & Crispy and a multipack between October 2014 and July 2015 that Shapes Light & Crispy contained “75% less saturated fat” than Arnott’s’ original Shapes biscuits, when in fact it contained approximately 60 per cent less saturated fat than original Shapes.
In making the “75% less saturated fat” representation, Arnott’s was actually comparing its Shapes Light & Crispy product not to original Shapes but to potato chips cooked in 100% palm oil. This was included in a fine print disclaimer at the bottom of the packs. However, even if potato chips had been an appropriate comparison for the saturated fat content of Shapes Light & Crispy, the ACCC notes that since only around 20 per cent of potato chips sold in Australia are cooked in palm oil, the representation may still have been misleading.
“Consumers should be able to trust the claims that businesses make to sell their products. Small print disclaimers cannot correct false or misleading representations which are made in a prominent way in advertising or on packaging,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
“Businesses must ensure that any comparison claims they make are accurate and based on meaningful comparisons for consumers. This is particularly the case regarding claims that involve healthier eating.”
“Truth in advertising, particularly where misleading claims are made by large businesses, is a priority enforcement area for the ACCC,” Mr Sims said.
The ACCC issued the infringement notices to Arnott’s because it had reasonable grounds to believe that Arnott’s made a false or misleading representation about the composition of Shapes Light & Crispy, in breach of the Australian Consumer Law.
Arnott’s has provided a court enforceable undertaking to the ACCC that it will not engage in similar conduct for a period of three years. It will also publish a corrective notice on its website and in the nationally published Foodmagazine.
The payment of a penalty specified in an infringement notice is not an admission of a contravention of the ACL. The ACCC can issue an infringement notice where it has reasonable grounds to believe a person has contravened certain consumer protection laws.