The Federal Court has fined Pepe’s Ducks $375,000 over misleading claims that its ducks were ‘open range’ and ‘grown nature’s way’. The court action was initiated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
According to the ACCC, Pepe’s Ducks, which has around 40% market share, used the claims in a variety of ways including product packaging, delivery vehicles and its website. Those who have seen Pepe’s Ducks vans may recall the picture of a duck outdoors with a lake in the background.
Far from being open range, Pepe’s Ducks were said to be raised entirely indoors without access to the outdoors.
In addition to the pecuniary penalties of $375,000, the Federal Court ordered Pepe’s Ducks to pay $25,000 in costs and made a range of additional orders including:
- Restraining Pepe’s Ducks for three years from using the words ‘open range’ or ‘grown nature’s way’ in its marketing; and
- Restraining Pepe’s Ducks for three years from using the picture of the duck outdoors unless the words ‘barn raised’ are prominently used in close proximity to the image.
ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said the penalties were a warning to other businesses not to mislead consumers paying a premium for products that don’t stand up to the businesses claims.
“Consumers must be able to trust that what is on the label is true and accurate. This penalty is a warning to businesses to make sure they are not misleading consumers into paying a premium for products that don’t match the claims made on the label,” said Ms Court.
What CHOICE wants
CHOICE has welcomed the ACCC’s efforts to address misleading welfare claims in relation to animal products in 2012. At the beginning of the year, one of the companies pursued by the ACCC for making misleading ‘free to roam’ claims in the supply and promotion of chicken meat agreed to pay $100,000 in penalties. The case continues against two producers who supply Steggles (Bartter Enterprises and Baiada Poultry) and the peak body, the Australian Chicken Meat Federation.
The ACCC also pursued a South Australian egg supplier, Rosie’s Free Range Eggs, for misleading claims that eggs from caged hens were free range.
And in November, the ACCC in its initial assessment of a certification trade mark application rejected the Australian Egg Corporation’s proposal to define free range egg production as up to 20,000 birds per hectare. The ACCC is expected to make a final decision in early 2013.
CHOICE hopes that the ACCC will continue the crackdown 2013. CHOICE will keep calling for truthful labelling and a national free range standard so that consumers can have confidence they are getting what they pay for when they buy free range products.
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