ACCC targeting more cracks in free range egg claims
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has continued its focus on ‘free range’ egg claims, and instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against R.L Adams Pty Ltd, which trades as Darling Downs Fresh Eggs, alleging that it made false or misleading representations that its eggs were free range, in contravention of the Australian Consumer Law.
The ACCC alleges that from 31 December 2013 to 6 October 2014, Darling Downs Fresh Eggs supplied eggs marketed and labelled as ‘free range’ when in fact the laying hens had been continuously confined to barns and had never had access to the outdoors.
‘Free range’ crackdown continues
Australian Food News reported last week that the ACCC had instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against Derodi Pty Ltd (Derodi) and Holland Farms Pty Ltd (Holland) alleging that their use of ‘free range’ in relation to their Ecoeggs, Field Fresh and Port Stephens egg brands was false and misleading. The actions against Derodi and RL Adams are the latest in a string of cases brought by the ACCC against egg producers making free range claims. In September 2014, the Federal Court handed down a $300,000 penalty against Pirovic after finding, by consent, that its ‘free range’ egg representations were false or misleading.
Australian Food News reported in June 2014 that concerns about the definition of ‘free range’ had also led to the NSW Government’s Department of Fair Trading starting development of a draft National Information Standard on free range eggs and with regard to the current review of the Model Code. The NSW Department of Fair Trading said the developments, which will also examine any improvements in the effectiveness and enforceability of the Code, will “work to enhance consumer confidence and certainty around egg labelling”.
Darling Downs Fresh Eggs case
Darling Downs Fresh Eggs supplied eggs it represented were free range under its own ‘Mountain Range’ label and under the ‘Drakes Home Brand Free Range’ label. Darling Downs Fresh Range Eggs also supplied eggs it represented were free range to other producers who used them to supplement their own free range egg supply.
“Consumers are entitled to rely on ‘free range’ claims made by producers,” said Rod Sims, ACCC Chairman Rod Sims.
“The ACCC considers ‘free range’ eggs to mean that the laying hens can and do go outside and move around freely on an open range on most days,” Mr Sim said. “The ACCC considers that the alleged misrepresentations in this case are particularly serious, because it is the ACCC’s case that the Darling Downs Fresh Eggs hens were never given outdoor access,” he said.
The ACCC is seeking pecuniary penalties, a declaration, an injunction, an order for a compliance program to be established, a publication order and costs.
The matter is set down for a directions hearing at 10:15am in Brisbane on 5 February 2015 before Justice Dowsett.
Darling Downs Fresh Eggs supplies eggs from farms located in Queensland approximately 40km south west of Toowoomba.