The Federal Court has ordered Ms Rosemary Bruhn to pay a civil pecuniary penalty of $50,000 for conduct involving substituting cage eggs for free range eggs, following Australian Competition and Consumer Commission action.
The ACCC had alleged that from March 2007 to October 2010, Ms Bruhn trading as Rosie’s Free Range Eggs represented that eggs she supplied to 109 business customers in South Australia including retail outlets, bakeries, cafes and restaurants, were free range when a substantial proportion of the eggs were, in fact, cage eggs.
The penalty imposed by the Court was in relation to Ms Bruhn’s conduct during the period from 15 April 2010 to October 2010. During that period Ms Bruhn acquired 55,790 dozen cage eggs which she supplied to those business customers as free range eggs.
“The ACCC takes action in cases such as this to protect consumers and also to protect other egg suppliers who accurately label and supply eggs,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.
“The Court’s decision should serve as a reminder that the ACCC will take action against suppliers who act unlawfully and represent that eggs are free range when they are not.”
The Court has declared that Ms Bruhn’s conduct was liable to mislead the public and breached section 55 of the Trade Practices Act 1974 (now known as the Competition and Consumer Act 2010).
Ms Bruhn’s unlawful conduct comprised supplying eggs to those business customers:
- In cartons which stated “Rosie’s Direct from the chook to you”, ‘Free Range Eggs” and “produced and packed at Rosie’s Free Range Eggs” and featured an image of Ms Bruhn outdoors surrounded by chickens;
- In boxes containing cartons or trays of eggs which, from early 2009, had “Rosie’s Free Range Eggs” prominently printed on them;
- under her business name without any qualification as to the method of production; and
- issuing invoices to those customers which also stated “Rosie’s Free Range Eggs” and “Direct from the chook to you” and included the image of Ms Bruhn surrounded by chickens.
The Court also ordered:
- an injunction against Ms Bruhn to restrain her from engaging in similar conduct in the future;
- Ms Bruhn to publish a corrective notice in The Advertiser newspaper, send a letter to the affected customers advising them of the outcome of proceedings, and attend compliance training; and
- Ms Bruhn to pay the ACCC’s costs of the proceedings in the amount of $15,000.
The proceedings were resolved by consent between the parties except in relation to the quantum of penalty.
The proceedings did not relate to eggs supplied by Ms Bruhn to the general public at her farm gate or at the Adelaide Showgrounds Farmers Market.
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