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ACCC issues fines over “fresh Australian juice” that is in reality none of those things

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recently issued fines to Supabarn Supermarkets Pty Ltd (Supabarn) and The Real Juice Company Pty Ltd (Real Juice) over false representations regarding Real Juice products sold at Supabarn. The regulator found various statements made in relation to private label apple juice and cranberry juice to be false, misleading and reasonably in breach of the Australian Consumer Law. For their part in marketing and supplying these products the companies were fined a total of $20,400.

In particular, the ACCC took objection to the use of statements relating to the origin of goods, which included:

  • Straight from a farm;
  • Made in Griffith; and
  • It’s produced locally using the freshest quality Apples.

It considered that these statements gave the false impression that the juice was made in Australia from locally grown apples. The outcome is unsurprising when you consider that the juice was in fact reconstituted concentrate imported from China.

Further, the two companies were caught out for making or endorsing false claims regarding the contents of the juice products, such as:

  • No added sugar; no artificial flavours; No artificial colours; No preservatives;
  • So if you like your juice fresh with nothing added; and
  • It’s really just fresh juice!

Unfortunately it wasn’t just fresh juice in the bottles, but also added sugar and other additives.

Supabarn and Real Juice discontinued the range of nine juice products once they were made aware of the ACCC’s concerns.

According to its release on the ACCC website, ‘Truth in advertising is a priority area for the ACCC’. Consumers should be able to make informed purchasing decisions and not be misled regarding the composition of products.’ Other concerns outlined by the ACCC include the unfairness to competitors and the number of recent cases linked to false representations surrounding the origins of goods.

The Australian Consumer Law sets a clear standard of honesty for those engaged in commercial enterprises, which prohibits representations that would mislead the reasonable consumer as to the true nature of the products.

It is a relatively straight-forward requirement, but the recent experience of Supabarn and Real Juice stands to remind commercial entities of the importance of honesty in advertising.