ACCC to take Dairy Farmers to court

Posted by Editorial on 18th July 2008

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has initiated legal proceedings against Australian Co-operative Foods Limited in the Federal Court. The ACCC allege that Australian Co-operative Foods, which trades as Dairy Farmers, engaged in false, misleading and deceptive conduct in the packaging of certain cheese products in contravention of the Trade Practices Act 1974.

The ACCC claim that between 6 February 2008 and 19 March 2008 ACF supplied to wholesalers and retailers Romano style cheese packaged and labelled as Parmesan style cheese and, as such, misrepresented the type of cheese packaged and its nutritional attributes. The subjects of the ACCC’s allegations are the “Mil Lel” and “Westacre” cheese brands.

The ACCC is seeking an admission of guilt from ACF and an injunction restraining them from engaging in similar conduct in future. They are also requesting that ACF write to its customers and cause to be published notices in newspapers and on its website advising of the alleged misrepresentations. Additionally, ACF would be required to implement a trade practices compliance program and pay the costs of the proceeding.

The matter has been filed in the Federal Court’s Fast Track List and is listed for a scheduling conference in Melbourne on 1 September 2008.

The ACCC is still evaluating the proposal of the two joint ventures seeking to purchase the Australian-owned Dairy Farmers. The dairy co-operative put themselves on the market in March and have had interest from a number of major dairy industry players. Currently, the ACCC is analysing the proposals of the Parmalat-Murray-Goulburn bid and the National Foods-Warrnambool Cheese and Butter bid, with an announcement due next Thursday.