Supermarket chain Coles has been fined $61,200 by watchdog the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for allegedly misleading consumers about the country of origin on some of its fresh produce.
In a statement issued this morning, the ACCC said it had issued six infringement notices to Coles for claims made in five of its stores between March 2013 and May 2013.
According to the ACCC, Coles had displayed imported navel oranges and kiwi fruit underneath price boards which read ‘Helping Australia Grow’ with the triangular ‘Australian Grown’ symbol.
“Consumers should be able to rely on the accuracy of claims about food, particularly when they are prepared to pay a premium for products made in Australia. Misleading country of origin claims can also have a significant impact on the competitive process and hurt the local economy,” said Rod Sims, chairman of the ACCC.
Coles said they had reviewed the infringement notices and did not believe it has broken the law with the use of “generic claims on fresh produce price boards”, however said it had paid the fine as a matter of “expediency”.
“Coles does not believe that it has contravened any law but has paid the ACCC fines as a matter of practical expediency to avoid a lengthy and costly legal action in defending our position,” the company said in a statement.
It is only weeks since the Coles was forced to admit that only a third of its stores in Australia bake bread from scratch, despite their advertising claiming their products are ”baked today, sold today”.
The revelation saw the ACCC launch Federal Court action against the supermarket chain. Coles has said it will vigorously defend this court action.