Woolworths reprimanded by ACCC for ‘deceptive’ advertising on eco picnic products

The consumer watchdog has announced plans to take court action against supermarket giant Woolworths for allegedly providing “false, misleading or deceptive” environmental representations about its ‘W Select eco’ picnic product range.

Between November 2014 and November 2017, Woolworths indicated on its packaging that disposable bowls, plates and cutlery in the ‘W Select eco’ range were both “biodegradable and compostable”.

Woolworths ‘W Select eco’ range

However, the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission alleges Woolworths didn’t make reasonable efforts to substantiate those claims.

Sarah Court, ACCC commissioner, said Woolworths customers paid a higher price for disposable picnic products because they assumed the environmental claims would have been substantiated.

“The ACCC also alleges that Woolworths made these claims in circumstances where it was aware there was confusion among consumers and businesses about the meaning of biodegradable and compostable.

“One of the suppliers of the W Select eco line also had significant qualifications on its website about the biodegradability and compostability of its products.

“Despite all these matters, Woolworths made the representations without explanation or qualification.”

Alongside its misleading packaging, the consumer watchdog alleges Woolworths did not follow its own environmental claims policy: “Environmental claims must be accurate, specific and clear; apply to a real environmental benefit; not overstate a benefit and be articulated in plain language”.

A Woolworths spokesperson said in a statement to Mumbrella: “At Woolworths we’re committed to doing the right thing for the environment and continue to work hard to drive initiatives that help both us and our customers minimise our impact on the environment.

“We treat our obligations under the Australian Consumer Law very seriously, and understand how important it is that environmental claims are clear and accurate for our customers.

“Following enquiries from the ACCC, we took the precautionary step of voluntarily withdrawing the products from sale in November 2017 so that we could carefully consider the concerns raised.

“We are now in the process of reviewing the ACCC’s claims and considering our next steps.”


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