Arnott’s Shapes forced to change packaging and fined $51,000 for misleading Fat content claim
Leading biscuit brand Arnott’s has paid the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) $51,000 in penalties after five infringement notices were issued against the company in relation to a marketing claim for its Shapes Light & Crispy product.
The infringements centred around a statement which said Shapes Light & Crispy contained “75% less saturated fat”. The claim appeared on four varieties of the product and a multipack between October 2014 and July 2015.
The ACCC took action after finding that Shapes Light & Crispy have only 60 per cent less saturated fat than the original Shapes. The “75 per cent less saturated fat” claim was used in reference to a comparison with potato chips cooked in 100 per cent palm oil.
Arnott’s had inserted a fine print disclaimer on the Shapes packs yet the ACCC said that even if potato chips were an appropriate reference food for comparison, the comparison was still misleading because only approximately 20 per cent of potato chips sold in Australia are cooked in palm oil.
“Consumers should be able to trust the claims that businesses make to sell their products. Small print disclaimers cannot correct false or misleading representations which are made in a prominent way in advertising or on packaging,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
“Businesses must ensure that any comparison claims they make are accurate and based on meaningful comparisons for consumers. This is particularly the case regarding claims that involve healthier eating.
“Truth in advertising, particularly where misleading claims are made by large businesses, is a priority enforcement area for the ACCC.”
Arnott’s has provided a court enforceable undertaking to the ACCC that it will not engage in similar conduct for a period of three years. It will also publish a corrective notice on its website and in Foodmagazine which is distributed nationally.
The ACCC noted that the payment of a penalty specified in an infringement notice is not an admission of a contravention of Australian Consumer Law. It said it can issue an infringement notice where it has reasonable grounds to believe a person has contravened certain consumer protection laws.
Arnott’s acknowledged that it was insufficiently clear that the marketing comparative claim was intended to be a comparison with some potato chips and that it instead gave the impression that the comparison was with the original Shapes savoury biscuits.
“Arnott’s further acknowledges the ACCC’s concerns about the appropriateness of this comparison where approximately 80% of potato chips available in Australia are not cooked in palmolein oil,” Arnott’s told Australian Food News.
“Arnott’s believed that consumers were familiar with this claim due to its long term use on some potato chips. Unlike the original Shapes range, the Light & Crispy range contains potato flakes and has a taste, texture and appearance similar to potato chips,” Arnott’s said.
“The packs displaying this claim have been phased out. Arnott’s wishes to emphasise that although the claim has been removed from packs, the product recipe and ingredients remain the same,” Arnott’s concluded.