Watchdog takes on Woolworths

Woolworths, supermarket, wooliesThe Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia against Woolworths, alleging the supermarket chain made false or misleading representations about the safety of certain Woolworths products.

It is also alleged that Woolworths failed to file mandatory reports as required by the Australian Consumer Law once it had become aware that serious injury or illness may have been caused by certain Woolworths products.

“Consumers are entitled to expect that the goods that they purchase from retailers are safe, and that retailers will act swiftly when product defects are subsequently identified, to avoid further potential harm to consumers,” ACCC chairman, Rod Sims, said.

The ACCC alleges that Woolworths made false or misleading representations about the safety of three Woolworths home brand products: Abode 3L Stainless Steel Deep FryerWoolworths Select Drain Cleaner 1L, and Homebrand Safety Matches (10 boxes per pack).

The ACCC alleges that by offering these products for sale, Woolworths represented that they were safe when they were not, and that by continuing to sell them once it was aware these products may have caused serious injury Woolworths continued to make false or misleading representations that these products were safe.

The ACCC also alleges that Woolworths made false or misleading representations about the weight capacity of the Woolworths Home Collection Padded Flop Chair and Masters Home Improvement Folding Stepping Stool, as these products did not withstand the maximum weight load stated on their packaging.

These products have all subsequently been recalled by Woolworths.

“Companies should ensure that they have effective quality assurance processes in place to prevent unsafe products from reaching their shelves. This is particularly the case where companies look to reduce costs in their supply chain by directly sourcing home brand products from overseas manufacturers,” Sims said.

“All suppliers have an obligation to ensure that any product defects identified are dealt with swiftly to prevent harm to consumers. This includes ensuring that any serious injury or illness associated with a product is reported promptly and that recall action is taken where appropriate.”

The ACCC is seeking pecuniary penalties, declarations, injunctions, findings of fact, publicity orders, an order that Woolworths implement a product safety compliance program, an order that Woolworths publish information to raise consumer awareness about product safety and how to report safety incidents, and costs.

The matter has been set down for a directions hearing in Sydney at  9:30 am on 4 November 2014.

Consumers can obtain further information on the recalled products from the Recalls Australia website(link is external).

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