There has been some ‘ribbing’ in the media and apparently some discord in parliament, regarding the photo opportunity of a barbecue for The Premier of Victoria, Mr Daniel Andrews, and the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Anthony Albanese. There has been some conjecture about whether the meat in the photograph had actually been barbecued or not, even though it was sitting on the BBQ.
Of course, this photo opportunity is in no way false and misleading to the general public. Whether it is a set up photo is neither here, nor there to the general community.
It becomes a different story when you as manufacturer indicates that a certain process has taken place, or a certain ingredient has been used, and it really hasn’t.
The ACCC is the statutory authority that enforces fair trading and competition to ensure that consumers are able to make choices feeling confident that the information available to them is fair and accurate.
So, where does the barbecue example come in and what is the responsibility of the manufacturer when advertising or labelling their products. Just over 20 years ago, a fast-food chain advertised a grilled chicken burger – it went so far as to sear the surface of the patty with parallel grill marks. The ACCC determined that the chicken burger had not been grilled and that consumers had been misled.
What can you do or not do when selling your products or advertising them for sale? You must firstly remember that your website, Facebook pages, Instagram, Google ads, etc, where you talk about your products is also considered advertising. It does not matter to the ACCC whether you intended to be misleading or not, the fact that you have is all the matters in a guilty verdict with the subsequent court case.
Some terms will be considered ‘puffery’, but it is the overall effect of the product and the advertising and what an ordinary person might reasonably deduce about the product that needs to be considered. Small text hidden away with asterisks on the back of the label when there is large print on the front of the label, would not necessarily get you out of trouble. Again, it is the overall impression of the label and the advertising.
You are probably thinking – yep – grilled has to be grilled and I wouldn’t do that. This was probably an enthusiastic group who thought the product was wonderful and tasted great. What it indicates is, you must take a step back from the excitement of talking about your product and make sure that you look at what it is and what you are saying from a consumer perspective.
If you have someone pulling together your Facebook ads, or Google ads, make sure that you have a brief that describes the product for them and make sure that you have a review procedure before the ‘go’ button is pressed.
Take that step back and ask – will I confuse Great Aunt Margaret?