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Court rules Coles mislead consumers with claims bread products were ‘baked today’

A recent Coles bakery ad featuring Curtis Stone

A 2012 Coles bakery ad featuring Curtis Stone

Coles has been found guilty over misleading shoppers with claims that bread products were “baked today” or “freshly baked in-store” by the Federal Court, with the court ruling that the claims were false, misleading and deceptive.

Responding to proceedings brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the court found claims that the products were ‘baked today’ or ‘freshly baked in-store’ were inaccurate, with the bread products partially baked and frozen off site by a supplier, with Cuisine Royale baked overseas, before being transported and ‘finished’ at in-store bakeries.

The Court found that the “Baked Today, Sold Today”, “Freshly Baked” and “Baked Fresh” claims “amounted to a misleading representation that the par-baked bread products had been baked on the day of sale or baked in a fresh process using fresh not frozen product”.

In the ruling handed down on Wednesday, Chief Justice Allsop said: “It is not the place of the court to provide an advice …as to how Coles might sell bread that has been par-baked from frozen product… A start would, however, be to make it tolerably clear to the public that the recent baking was the completion of a baking process that had taken place some time before, off site, and that ‘freshly baked’ actually meant the completion of the baking process of frozen product prepared and frozen off site by suppliers.”

A Coles spokesperson conceded that the supermarket could have better explained how the products are baked.

“Whether baked from scratch in-store or ‘par baked’ by our suppliers and finished in our ovens, our bread and baked goods are great quality products which taste great and are convenient for customers. They have won a number of awards around the country,” the spokesperson said.

“In talking to customers about the ‘par-baked’ bread range we certainly never set out to deliberately mislead anybody but we completely accept that we could have done a better job in explaining how the products are baked. We are already well advanced in changing product packaging and other information.”

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the body was concerned the claims about par baked bread were likely to mislead consumers.

“These claims also placed independently-owned and franchised bakeries that freshly bake bread from scratch each day at a competitive disadvantage,” he said.

“(The) decision confirms that Coles misled consumers about the baking of these bread products. Consumers should be able to rely on the accuracy of credence claims made by businesses like Coles to promote their products, especially where those claims are used to compete with smaller businesses which are genuinely offering a differentiated product.”

Coles could face fines of up to $1.1 million per breach.

Coles uses Curtis Stone to promote its fresh food products (note: The ad below was not the subject of the court hearing)

 

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