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ACCC alleges Woolies misled consumers with false eco claims

 

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The consumer watchdog has taken Woolworths to the federal court accusing it of falsely labelling products in its ‘W Select eco’ line as biodegradable and compostable.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) alleges that from November 2014 to November 2017, Woolworths labelled disposable bowls, plates and cutlery in its W Select eco range as ‘biodegradable and compostable’ despite failing to substantiate these claims.

In a statement, the ACCC said Woolworths represented to consumers that the products would biodegrade and compost within a reasonable period of time when disposed of in domestic compost bins or conventional landfill sites in Australia.

“Customers paid a premium because they rightfully thought the environmental claims would have been substantiated,” ACCC commissioner Sarah Court said.

“The ACCC also alleges that Woolworths made these claims in circumstances where it was aware there was confusion among consumers and businesses about the meaning of biodegradable and compostable.

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“One of the suppliers of the W Select eco line also had significant qualifications on its website about the biodegradability and compostability of its products.

“Despite all these matters, Woolworths made the representations without explanation or qualification.”

A Woolworths spokesperson told 9Finance that the retailer was taking the allegations seriously and was committed to doing the right thing.

“We treat our obligations under the Australian Consumer Law very seriously, and understand how important it is that environmental claims are clear and accurate for our customers,” the spokesperson said.

After enquiries from the ACCC, Woolworths voluntarily withdrew the products from sale in November 2017 and is now reviewing the watchdog’s claims.

The ACCC is seeking pecuniary penalties, injunctions, declarations, publication orders and costs.

 

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