Biscuit maker Arnott’s has paid $51,000 in penalties to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in relation to the consumer watchdog’s concerns it was misleading shoppers about how much fat is in Shapes.
The hefty penalties were contained in five infringement notices issued by the ACCC, which said in a statement this morning it had reasonable grounds to believe Arnott’s had made a false and misleading representation in breach of Australian Consumer Law.
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The ACCC said the representations in question were made on four varieties multipacks of Shapes Light & Crispy biscuits between October 2014 and July 2015.
The packaging said the product contained “75% less saturated fat”, which was a comparison to potato chips that are cooked in 100% palm oil.
But the ACCC said this qualification was printed on the bottom of the pack in fine print and it is likely that consumers could have been mislead into believing the comparison was to Arnott’s original Shapes biscuits.
The ACCC also said that given around 20% of potato chips in Australia are cooked in palm oil, the representation could be misleading.
“Consumers should be able to trust the claims that businesses made to see their products,” said ACCC chairman Rod Sims in the statement.
“Small print disclaimers cannot correct false or misleading representations, which are made in a prominent way in advertising or on packaging.
“Businesses must ensure that any comparison claims they make are accurate and based on meaningful comparisons for consumers. This is particularly the case regarding claims that involve healthier eating.”
Arnott’s has also entered into a court enforceable undertaking with the ACCC that it will not engage in similar conduct for the next three years and will publish a corrective notice on its website and in national publication, Foodmagazine.
However, the payment of an infringement notice is not an admission that a company has contravened Australian Consumer Law.
In a statement provided to SmartCompany this morning, Arnott’s said it acknowledges “it was not made sufficiently clear to consumers that Shapes Light & Crispy was intended to be compared to potato chips, rather than the original Shapes savoury biscuits”.
“Shapes Light & Crispy actually contain on average 60% less saturated fat than original Shapes,” the company said.
“Arnott’s further acknowledges the ACCC’s concerns about the appropriateness of this comparison where approximately 80% of potato chips in Australia are not cooked in palmolein oil.
“Arnott’s believed that consumers were familiar with this claim due to its long term use on some potato chips. Unlike the original Shapes range, the Light & Crispy range contains potato flakes and has a taste, texture and appearance similar to potato chips.”
The company said the packages that contained the claim have been phased out, however, the product recipe and ingredients remain the same.
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