Coles fined $2.5m for misleading advertising on claims bread products were ‘baked today’

A 2012 Coles bakery ad featuring Curtis Stone

A 2012 Coles bakery ad featuring Curtis Stone

Supermarket giant Coles has been order to pay penalties of $2.5m for “substantial and serious” misleading marketing claims that bread products were “baked today” or “freshly baked in-store”.

Last year the Federal Court found that claims that products were “Baked Today, Sold Today” and in some cases “Freshly Baked In-Store”, were false, misleading and deceptive due to them being partially baked and frozen off site by a supplier, transported and ‘finished’ at in-store bakeries within Coles supermarkets.

In a statement Coles said it did not “deliberately set out to mislead anybody” but accepted “we could have done a better job explaining how these products are made”.

In imposing the major fines Chief Justice Allsop said: “The evidence before the Court showed that Coles had engaged in the campaign with the clear purpose of improving its market share vis-à-vis its competitors, being bakeries such as Bakers Delight… It set out to do so by engaging in the conduct that, in fact, breached the Australian Consumer Law.

“The contravening conduct in this case is substantial and serious. Notwithstanding the absence of any specific evidence as to loss or damage by a consumer or a competitor, it is clear that the significant potential to mislead or deceive and thus to damage competitors, the duration of the conduct, and the fact that the goods in relation to which the impugned phrases were used were ‘consumer staples’ indicate that the objective seriousness of the offending conduct was considerable”.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said he was pleased with the verdict.

“This penalty sends a strong message to companies that they should not use broad phrases in promotions that are deliberately chosen to sell products to consumers but which are likely to mislead consumers,” said Sims.

“As the Chief Justice pointed out, it is important that sellers in the market recognise that consumers are entitled to reliable, truthful and accurate information”

“The ACCC took this action because it was concerned that Coles’ “Baked Today, Sold Today” and “Freshly Baked In-Store” claims about its par baked bread were likely to mislead consumers. The conduct also placed independently-owned and franchised bakeries that entirely bake bread from scratch each day at a competitive disadvantage.”

Coles’ conduct was part of a nationwide campaign that was promoted in 637 Coles supermarkets. “Baked Today, Sold Today” was used extensively on packaging for par baked products over a three year period.

In its response a Coles spokesperson said: “In talking to customers about our bread range we did not deliberately set out to mislead anybody, but we accept that we could have done a better job in explaining how these products are made.

“Last year we changed our packaging and in-store signage to improve our message to customers. We are proud of the quality of our bread, whether baked from scratch in-store or ‘par baked’ by our Australian suppliers and finished in our ovens.”

Nic Christensen 


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