A decision by the Federal Court against supplements maker Nature’s Care could be a valuable test case for manufacturers seeking to understand exactly what it means for a product to be deemed “Australia-made”.
According to a statement from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Nature’s Care had attempted to renew its licence from the Australian Made Campaign to use the famed green and gold kangaroo on its fish oil and Vitamin D supplements.
That application was rejected, on the grounds that because the product was encapsulated in Australia but used imported fish oil and Vitamin D, it did not qualify as being made in Australia.
The company then launched legal action in the Federal Court against the Campaign, proceedings which the ACCC subsequently joined in what it said was “a matter of public importance and to assist the court by providing expert evidence”.
Nature’s Care, the ACCC said, held the view that its product was “substantially transformed” in Australia, meaning it met the required conditions to qualify for Made in Australia status.
However, the court ruled against the company.
ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh said that the regulator was happy that the court had provided clarification on the interpretation of the rules around country of origin labelling, which he acknowledged can be “complex”.
“What constitutes ‘substantial transformation’ under the law will vary depending on the product. Because of this, the ‘substantial transformation’ test can be complex and, at times, technical to apply,” the deputy chair said.
“We are pleased that the court has clarified this aspect of the law so that businesses can more confidently determine whether they can make country-of-origin claims about their products.”
Mr Keogh added: “Country-of-origin representations can be a powerful marketing tool for businesses, as many consumers are willing to pay extra for Australia-made products.”
The ACCC said that Nature’s Care’s licence to use the Made in Australia logo on its Fish Oil 1000 + Vitamin D3 product will expire on 31 December 2018.
Nature’s Care has been contacted for comment.
According to its website, the company was founded in 1990 and has grown to become one of the largest makers of gel capsules and tablets in the Southern Hemisphere.
It follows the ACCC launching its own legal proceedings against Aboriginal-themed souvenirs and art retailer Birubi Art for falsely claiming that its merchandise was made in Australia, when most were actually produced in Indonesia.
Another company, meanwhile, accused the ACCC of “bullying a small Australian business” into paying penalties worth thousands of dollars, after the regulator deemed its comments about Australian materials were misleading — claims the business denied.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.