The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has published new guidance to assist SME business owners in complying with the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) when making country of origin claims about their products.
The ACCC says its new guidance, titled Country of origin claims and the Australian Consumer Law, provides information and examples to illustrate when businesses can say their goods are ‘Made in’, ‘Product of’ or ‘Grown in’ Australia and includes advice on how a business can rely on the ‘safe harbour’ provisions in the ACL.
The guidance has been produced by the ACCC in consultation with an intergovernmental National Working Group chaired by the Department of Industry and Treasury, and including the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Food Standards Australia New Zealand. The development of the guidance has also involved engagement with the state and territory ACL regulators and a number of industry associations.
Country of origin labels are valuable tools that allow consumers to make informed choices and let businesses compete fairly, said Rod Sims, Chairman of the consumer watchdog.
“Many consumers specifically seek out, or are willing to pay a premium for, Australian produce, or products that are made in Australia,” Sims said. “This information assists manufacturers, wholesalers, importers, retailers, advertisers and anyone else who may be making country of origin representations, in deciding what claims are appropriate for their products.
Businesses making false or misleading representations could face penalties of up to $1.1 million under the ACL. In a recent case, the Federal Court ordered two companies supplying solar panels to pay a combined penalty of $145,000, in part, for making false and misleading country of origin representations. In addition to the monetary penalties, the Court also made other orders by consent including declarations, injunctions, corrective advertising and an order that the businesses make a contribution towards the ACCC’s costs.
“Any claim that is likely to mislead consumers about the origin of a product will breach the law. Credence claims are a priority area for the ACCC, particularly those with the potential to adversely impact the competitive process and small businesses.”
The get your hands on the ACCC’s country of origin guidance paper, visit this ACCC website now.