Businesses that mislead consumers on price could face hefty fines, the consumer watchdog has warned, after campervan hire company Wicked Campers was fined more than $26,000.
Wicked Campers – the trading name of Juicy Love – is known for its conspicuous, graffiti-covered campervans, popular among young backpackers and budget tourists.
It’s alleged that between February and August this year, Wicked Campers made a number of misleading representations on its website and in a national backpacker magazine.
According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the advertisements and representations failed to specify the single total price payable for the campervans.
The advertisements also failed to adequately disclose certain mandatory fees and charges.
The ACCC was particularly concerned the advertisements appeared to be targeted at backpackers or budget tourists, who are often “price sensitive” and “could have difficulty understanding complicated price arrangements in English”.
Juicy Love has paid four infringement notices, totaling $26,400, to the ACCC for advertising that was misleading about the price of hiring its campervans.
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“If information concerning price is not clear, consumers can be misled into thinking goods and services are cheaper than they actually are,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement.
“This type of conduct not only harms consumers, but other businesses that do the right thing.”
The payment of infringement notice penalties is not an admission of a contravention of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
The ACCC can issue an infringement notice where it has reasonable grounds to believe a person has contravened certain consumer protection laws.
Sims said the Wicked Campers incident should serve as a reminder to businesses with regard to the repercussions of displaying misleading advertising.
“Traders risk action by the ACCC if they advertise part of the price of goods or services without specifying the total single price payable or fail to adequately disclose the existence of mandatory fees or charges,” he said.
A spokesperson for the ACCC says when advertising or promoting the prices of products or services, traders must not make false or misleading representations.
“Whether or not conduct is considered misleading or deceptive will depend on the particular circumstances of each case,” the spokesperson says.
“Conduct that misleads one group of consumers will not necessarily mislead every consumer.”
“Some examples of conduct that may be misleading or deceptive are a mobile phone provider signing you up to a contract without telling you that there is no coverage in your region [or] a real estate agent misrepresenting the characteristics of a property,” the spokesperson says.
As a rule of thumb, a trader risks breaching the law if they:
- Advertise products at a specific price when it does not have a reasonable supply for consumers to purchase.
- Make inaccurate or misleading price comparisons.
- Represent that an advertised price is the total price a consumer will have to pay when it is not.