When ‘natural’ can really mean artificial

High Court has its say on Aldi hair product promise.

aldi shoppers

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recently declared grace  time was over and it was sending officers out to patrol the shelves and enforce the  country of origin food labelling laws. If it’s labelled Aussie, it must be Aussie, totally Aussie.

Which makes a recent labelling issue, unrelated to country of origin, baffling.

The Federal Court has ruled that products bearing the term “naturals” can sometimes be largely artificial.

It has decreed that if the word is less prominent on the packaging than those around it and if it is sold from a discount bin, it’s OK.

Aldi’s Protane Naturals Moroccan Argan Oil hair products are popular sale items. So much so that beauty brand Moroccanoil bought a lawsuit against Aldi for its “Naturals’ promise on the label.

A lower court ruled that Aldi had contravened Australian Consumer Law by engaging in deceptive and misleading conduct by using the word "naturals". On appeal, the Federal Court ruled that because the writing was small and because the item was regularly found in discount bins, the ordinary consumer would understand the term "Naturals" referred only to the presence of the ingredient, argan oil, and did not indicate the product was mostly composed of natural elements.

The Federal Court said that because the products were sold "in the cheapest part of one of the cheapest stores", consumers understood that "this is not where one expects to find hair care products made substantially from boutique natural ingredients".

"If the ordinary reasonable consumer noticed the word 'Naturals' at all, they would have understood it to be a sub-line of the 'Protane' products and not a statement about the quantity of natural ingredients in the products.

"To the extent that such consumers pondered what was natural about these products, it would have been that they contained some argan oil ... this is an Aldi supermarket."

However, The Age reports that Gerard Brody, Consumer Action Law Centre (CALC) chief executive and chairman of the Consumers Federation of Australia, said people would be left with a misleading impression if manufacturers were able to put the word "Naturals" on their products.

"If a label says 'natural', I think people are rightly wanting to rely on that so it means it’s made from natural ingredients," Mr Brody said.

"It doesn’t matter if it’s in Aldi or a top-end store, they should be entitled to read that and assume the product is natural."

What’s your view on the use of the term ‘naturals’? Do you agree with the Federal Court decision? Are you a conscientious reader of labels?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    18th Jul 2018
    I always read the list of ingredients and make up my own mind to purchase or not. Natural means little to me, but I do choose organic when possible and if not priced too high.
    18th Jul 2018
    I do the same. All marketing is deceptive. ????
    18th Jul 2018
    there's to much rubbish in lots of products
    18th Jul 2018
    I am a skeptic re any marketing especially as recently paying a deposit in January of $2,600 to purchase PVC shutters from a company in Thornton calling themselves Australian Plantation Shutters. Then being told to buy their aluminum shutters which I did NOT want. They are ignoring demand letters from my Lawyer.
    18th Jul 2018
    If the product states it is Natural - one would expect it to be so regardless of whether it was in large print or small on the container. That is a stupid statement to say because it is in small print and in a discount part of the store, consumers would know it was not fully natural. Be honest about the contents please. Like some of the others, my shopping time is longer these days as I do read contents labels thoroughly.
    18th Jul 2018
    Every 'artificial' product is made from 'natural' ingredients, even if those 'natural' ingredients are several iterations back in the manufacturing process. Natural molecules are reprocessed, and possibly reprocessed multiple times, into 'artificial' molecules to come up with the final 'artificial' product. One could confidently say that there is no such thing as 'artificial' as everything comes from nature at some stage. For instance mobile phones could be called 'artificial' because they are not found in nature, but all the components used to make them (ie plastics from oil, resins from plants, metals from mining) are initially natural products.
    18th Jul 2018
    MISLEADING is the way much of business works.
    Take for instance food labelling. How many decades has it taken to get politicians to act? And them half heartedly.
    Next the claim that coal fired power is necessary and cheaper? Bollocks!
    In the past year we have seen the emergence of rental car advertising using the classic bait and switch technique to defraud customers.
    The list is endless.

    The real problem is the ACCC itself which prefers to write emails to complainants rather than pick up the phone, ring the crooked business and lay it on the line. The problem would be solved in nearly all cases. But the ACCC refuses to act. What else is new?????

    The story today should come as no surprise. It is a well worn road with crooked business calling the tune and consumers there to milk, protected by the ruling political class looking the other way.
    18th Jul 2018
    Why always the ruling class Mick? You must really have a chip on your shoulder. I have been a simple worker all my life and still do not consider myself as one of Doug Cameron's down-trodden people. Communism has not worked; I liked Hawke and Keating but I am no longer sure about today's crop. I am sure I am not the only one.
    18th Jul 2018
    I really like the Argon oil & shampoo in Aldi . Whatever they use it is a good shampoo & conditioner & so much cheaper than other shops sell it 4.I don't worry so much about the natural label if I'm not eating / drinking it . We drink flouridated water which i consider more harmful & that is foisted upon us we don't have a say
    19th Jul 2018
    Thus would apply to a lot of brands even Avon's Natural Range because reading the label the list of unreadable chemical products was 10+I prefer the ones that are paraben & laurel sulphate free! Some labels are hard to read which is annoying.
    20th Jul 2018
    It always important to read labels: Where made, where grown, where packaged, ingredients. Only a few years ago some hair shampoos & hand washes contained a toxic chemical which has since been removed.

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