The Federal Court has ordered Gold Coast retailer UNJ Millenium Pty Ltd to pay $55,000 in penalties after it admitted it made false or misleading claims that sheepskin and wool bedding products were made in Australia, contained 100% sheep wool or contained 100% alpaca wool.
UNJ Millenium primarily marketed and sold its products to foreign tourists, in particular to Korean and Chinese tourists visiting the Gold Coast.
“Claims that products are Australian Made or ‘pure’ or ‘100%’ wool are powerful marketing tools designed to boost sales,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
“Overseas tourists seek out and pay a premium to purchase genuine Australian made products, because they are perceived to be of high quality and value. Deception in this area, not only harms consumers, but has the potential to harm the reputation of Australian made goods internationally.”
Mr Sims said that it is important that consumers can rely on labels to give truthful information about where a product is made and what it is made from, because consumers generally cannot test claims of this nature by themselves.
“It is simply not acceptable for retailers to make false claims on labels. The reputation of Australian manufacturers depends on consumers being confident that goods displaying these claims are indeed Australian made or pure wool.”
The Federal Court declared that UNJ Millenium had contravened the Australian Consumer Law (and the former Trade Practices Act 1974) for periods during 2010 and 2011 by claiming that:
- sheepskin products, such as rugs and car seat covers, were made in Australia by attaching the official “Australian Made” logo, when in fact they were not made in Australia;
- duvets, underlays and pillows were filled with 100% sheep wool by using the official “WoolMark” logo, when the products were made of a blend of wool and polyester; and
- bedding products were filled with “pure alpaca fibre”, when the products only contained up to 20% alpaca wool.
UNJ Millenium and its director Guen Uek Park were also ordered to contribute to the ACCC’s costs. The Federal Court also found that Mr Park had contravened the law and ordered him to undertake training about the Australian Consumer Law.