Aldi Australia has decided not to sell “flushable” bathroom wipes that were planned as a “Special Buy” at the discount supermarket this week, after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission raised concerns that the retailer’s claims about the wipes might not be accurate.
Aldi was faced with social media complaints from shoppers at the start of the week after promoting its “Green Action Flushable Bathroom Wipes”, which were slated to go on sale on Wednesday.
Despite assuring customers the wipes had been tested and were found to be flushable and biodegradable, shoppers asserted they were an “environmental hazard”.
“Flushable wipes are not flushable. This has been proven time and time again,” one customer wrote.
The ACCC was next to weigh in, saying it contacted Aldi over concerns that consumers could be mislead if it cannot be proven that the Green Action wipes can be successfully flushed.
“The ACCC is already pursuing alleged misleading ‘flushable’ claims more generally, with two proceedings currently before the Federal Court against Pental and Kimberly-Clark Australia Pty Ltd,” the Commission said in a statement.
The Commission is alleging that the Pental and Kimberley Clark products do not disintegrate like toilet paper when flushed, and says water authorities continue to face problems caused by non-flushable items clogging sewerage systems.
“The ACCC is also speaking with other industry players regarding similar products sold in Australia which make a ‘flushable’ claim,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in the same statement.
Aldi Australia tells SmartCompany the supermarket was hoping for clarity from the ACCC on the product, but that in the meantime, it is cooperating with the Commission and has decided to remove the products from sale while the concerns are aired.
“While there is currently no Australian standard for flushability, this product has been tested to the EDINA and INDA International guidelines, passing flushability and biodegradability tests,” an Aldi spokesperson said this morning, referring to the industry standards bodies that oversee non-woven and disposable products.
“While our discussions with the ACCC continue, we have decided not to sell this product. We apologise for any inconvenience caused to our customers.”
Take care on environmental and organic claims: ACCC
The consumer watchdog says it is watching claims around the biodegradability claims of toilet wipes and other products closely, and advises businesses to take care not to make claims to consumers that may not be able to be substantiated when they use a product.
In a guide for businesses, the Commission advises that any claims made about a product should use simple language, be honest, accurate, and have a clear way of being substantiated should somebody try to test the claims made.
The ACCC also warns against using common terms like “green”, and says businesses should be specific because shoppers can bring their own interpretations to any broad or vague product claims.
“For example, the statement ‘safe for the environment’ could have many meanings depending on the audience — some may believe this means your product is biodegradable or others may infer that it contains non-toxic ingredients,” the Commission advises businesses.
Along with flushable products, the ACCC has highlighted other product claims of concern over the past decade, including items being labelled “organic”, shopping bags positioned as biodegradable, and plastic products labelled with broad terms like “fully recycled”.
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