At a time when many Australians have lost faith in systems meant to protect them from cheating product and service providers, it’s heartening to see the consumer watchdog still has sharp teeth.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) annual report for 2017-18 contained a long list of household brands that in its opinion had behaved so unfairly towards customers that it took them to court.
Here are some of the companies and brands required to put in an appearance before your honour’s bench:
1. Hair raising: Ashley & Martin, the hair-loss treatment clinic, got into hot water over contracts the ACCC said were unfair because they did not give clients enough time to consult a doctor before signing onto a 12-month plan.
2. A real pain: GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis were caught out for alleging that Voltaren Osteo Gel was superior to Voltaren Emulgel in relieving osteoarthritis pain, when in fact the two products had identical formulations.
3. Environmental hazard: Grocery giant Woolworths was taken to court for falsely labelling disposable bowls, plates and cutlery in its ‘W Select Eco’ line as biodegradable and compostable.
4. Devious device: Apple Inc was sued for wrongly claiming owners of iPads and iPhones affected by an ‘error 53’ fault were not entitled to a manufacturers’ remedy because they had first been taken to a third party for repair.
5. Driven nuts: Ford Motor Company had action taken against it over unconscionable conduct towards owners of Fiesta, Focus and EcoSport vehicles who had complained about their car’s PowerShift transmission.
6. Web of lies: Optus was ordered to pay $1.5 million for misleading customers into believing they had to sign up with the carrier for NBN services.
7. Not flush: The maker of White King ‘flushable’ toilet wipes, Pental, was penalised for falsely claiming the wipes would disintegrate in the sewage system just like toilet paper.
These are just a fraction of the major companies that have been caught out doing the wrong thing by consumers. For more, see the ACCC’s full report.
Have you ever been misled into buying a product that made false claims? Have you ever received compensation ordered by a court over the unconscionable behaviour of a service or product provider?