Carlton & United Breweries slammed by ACCC over boutique beer claims

Carlton & United Breweries has entered into a court enforceable undertaking with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, after the beer giant admitted its labelling of Byron Bay Pale Lager may have been misleading.

The brewer has also copped $20,000 in infringement fines in relation to the case, which rested on ACCC concerns that CUB was misleading consumers by portraying itself as a small business.

CUB has been supplying Byron Bay Pale Lager nationwide since 2013 through a license from the Byron Bay Brewing Company, which brews and sells the beer at its location in Byron Bay.

The beer sold by CUB featured the name ‘Byron Bay Pale Lager’, an image of a lighthouse and a map of the Byron Bay area, as well as information about the town.

However, CUB brews the beer in Warnervale, 95km north of Sydney and about 630km from Byron Bay. The ACCC was concerned the beer was presented as being brewed by a small brewer in Byron Bay.

The ACCC said in a statement on Tuesday that CUB has agreed to stop distributing the products with the labels in question and, more generally, has agreed to not make false or misleading representations concerning the size of the brewery where its products are made or the place of origin of its products.

The company is also required to publish corrective notices on its website and in trade publications, and provide a notice for retailers to display at their points of sale.

A CUB spokesperson told SmartCompany the company has created a new label for the product, which is still available for sale. 

“The labelling has been revised to better disclose the third party contracting relationship between the Byron Bay Brewing Company and CUB,” said the spokesperson. “CUB treats its commitment to the law seriously and has worked with the ACCC over many months to address their concerns.”

The new label no longer features a map of the Byron Bay area or information about the town. In their place is a description of the beer and the words: “Bottled and brewed under contract in Warnervale NSW by Carlton & United Breweries … for the Byron Bay Brewing Company”. 

“Many small brewers cater to consumers who prefer to support small, niche businesses,” said ACCC chairman Rod Sims. “When large companies portray themselves as small businesses, it undermines the unique selling point that such small businesses depend upon, and it misleads consumers.”

Sims said the ACCC will write to other companies in the beer market, “putting them on notice of this matter in order to ensure that marketing and labelling in the beer market appropriately reflects where and by whom beer is brewed”.

SmartCompany contacted the Byron Bay Brewing Company but did not receive responses before deadline.

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