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Claims of 100% leave no room for ambiguity

Issued 12 August 2004

Commission reminds traders: Claims of 100% leave no room for ambiguity

The Commerce Commission is reminding all traders that there is no room for ambiguity when making absolute claims about the composition of their products.

Director of Fair Trading Deborah Battell said that Commission investigations into the juice, leather and most recently, feather and down industries, have all raised similar issues under the Fair Trading Act.

"The Commission is concerned about misrepresentations made by traders about the composition of products, and the misuse of absolute claims such as 100%. Under the Fair Trading Act it is imperative that all claims made as to nature and content of a product are of the highest levels of accuracy."

Last year the Commission investigated eleven fruit juice companies, resulting in two successful prosecutions and undertakings by five companies to make changes to their labels or website content. A number of the breaches related to misleading representations with respect to '100%' juice - when the products contained concentrate.

More recently, the Commission has launched an investigation into claims being made in the leather industry following complaints about retailers that have been selling look-alike part-leather products as though they were genuine leather.

The Commission has previously entered into settlements with retailers that represented reconstituted leather products as leather, requiring refunds and corrective advertising. The most recent complaints, however, relate to a different composite product where a synthetic layer is applied to the 'leather split' or underside of the leather. The product is then printed to make it look like genuine leather.

Ms Battell said the Commission considers that representing these look-alike products as '100% leather', 'genuine leather', or as simply 'leather' may mislead consumers about the real nature of the product they are purchasing.

Most recently, the Commission has alerted the feather and down industry of its concerns that manufacturers and retailers may not be accurately representing the composition of their products.

The Commission has completed an investigation into the industry following a complaint alleging significant differences between the down content labelling and the actual down content of individual duvets. In one case, a duvet labelled as 100% goose down allegedly contained only 78.5% down, of which 35.9% was duck down.

Ms Battell said the Commission understands that some of the issues with labelling have arisen because of tolerances allowed in some voluntary industry standards. "In the Commission's view, the need to label accurately under the Fair Trading Act overrides any permissible standard or labelling tolerances specified in any voluntary standard."

"In any industry, where a trader makes a representation that a product is manufactured to or composed of a particular percentage then that percentage must be met, or exceeded," Ms Battell said.

"Traders need to ensure that any advertising or product labelling does not mislead consumers or misrepresent key components of a product. A consumer should be able to make an informed decision based on factual information. Anything else could amount to a breach the Fair Trading Act, which can attract fines of up to $200,000," she said


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