A senior member of the Queensland government has called for a boycott of Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream products, saying the retailer has jeopardised jobs and tourism in the state through its “Reef Scoop Tour” publicity campaign.
State Environment Minister Andrew Powell’s comments come at the same time as confirmation from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission that it is considering whether statements made by Ben & Jerry’s during the campaign are in breach of Australian Consumer Law.
The US ice-cream maker has sent a van up the east coast of Australia which is handing out free scoops of ice cream in a bid to raise awareness of what it says are serious risks to the Great Barrier Reef, including “intensive dredging, mega ports and shipping highways”. The campaign is being run in co-operation with conservation organisation WWF.
The campaign is a response to approval by the Queensland and federal governments of the dumping of 3 million cubic metres of dredge spoil in the marine park and World Heritage area as part of the Abbot Point coal port expansion.
The Guardian reports Powell is planning to write to Ben & Jerry’s parent company Unilever about the campaign.
“Another company has signed up to the campaign of lies and deceit that’s been propagated by WWF,” said Powell. “The only people taking a scoop out of the reef are Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever.”
The minister’s comments come at the same time as confirmation that the ACCC is looking into the campaign.
Fairfax reports the ACCC has received multiple complaints about the company’s statements, including from another member of the Queensland Liberal Party, senator-elect Matthew Canavan, who said in a letter to ACCC chairman Rod Sims that the competition watchdog must consider whether the company has misled or deceived consumers.
“I do not dispute Ben & Jerry’s right to campaign on the political issues of their choice, but they have a legal obligation in Australia not to engage in misleading and deceptive conduct while engaging in trade and commerce,” said Canavan.
“Ben & Jerry’s state ‘the Reef is at serious risk from intensive dredging, mega ports and shipping highways’ [but] these statements are not true,” he said.
An ACCC spokesperson told SmartCompany the commission will “consider matters raised with it but isn’t in a position to discuss the specific matters raised at this stage”.
“As a general comment, we note that the Australian Consumer Law contains general prohibitions against businesses from making false, misleading or deceptive representations to consumers,” said the spokesperson. “In deciding what approach to take, the ACCC would access concerns raised against its Compliance and Enforcement Policy.”
SmartCompany contacted Ben & Jerry’s Australia but did not receive a response by deadline.