HOW the consumer watchdog chooses its battles was unveiled during public hearings for the Senate inquiry into definitions of meat.
The chair of the inquiry, Senator for Queensland, Susan McDonald, told representatives from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission how the national consumer law champion came to determine that he would not prosecute the Vegan food label enforcement measures using animal images and terms like beef when they did not contain beef at all. .
It turned out that, in a nutshell, the ACCC has bigger fish to whip up.
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The extent of the economic or consumer damage and the impact of the problem on vulnerable consumers were key factors considered when prioritizing how ACCC’s limited resources would be deployed, the survey said. .
The ACCC has an obligation to use taxpayers’ money prudently.
ACCC Vice Chairman Mick Keogh said the first assessment was whether a violation of Australian consumer law had taken place.
If so, decisions about future actions have been guided by the above priorities.
This process had, for example, led the ACCC to prioritize issues in the new motor vehicle sector in recent years, about which it had received around 10,000 consumer-related contacts per year.
The ACCC has been successful in leading major lawsuits against Ford and Mazda and in securing administrative results with Toyota, Hyundai and Holden, Keogh reported.
Only 20 complaints were received regarding the labels of vegan foods, and some came from representative breeding organizations rather than individual consumers.
“Considering the complaints we have received about protein substitutes, our view is that a court would be unlikely to consider that labeling the products brought to our attention would mislead an ordinary consumer,” said Mr. Keogh.
He also pointed out that anyone who believed Australia’s consumer law had been violated could take their own actions. ACCC participation was not required.
Senator McDonald asked why the ACCC relies on complaints from individual consumers, given that most consumers cannot be bothered to go this far or are unaware of such processes.
Should the ACCC be more proactive in investigating consumer satisfaction, she asked.
While this was not the case, the ACCC relied solely on consumer complaints to decide what action to take, such complaints were generally a reliable way to gauge the level of community concern about the issue. of a particular problem, Senators said.
ACCC’s Executive Director of Compliance and Fair Trade, Rami Greiss, said one example was when the pandemic struck and people were unable to access travel and shopping. accommodation, and found themselves out of pocket.
Thousands of people have contacted ACCC.
“In this case, there was actually little we could do because a lot of the law is inoperative, but it gave us a sense of the seriousness of the problem in the community,” Greiss said.
“It’s an important marker for us to assess this, based on the contacts we have received.
“In this case, we had 20 complaints. It doesn’t really give us a feeling of great concern.”
Senator McDonald: “You don’t think that the price of flights and accommodation would be such a bigger chunk of a consumer’s budget and make them more inclined to file a complaint than something that costs maybe less than $ 20. $?
Mr. Greiss: “You’re right, but it’s part of the prioritization process. We need to look at the level of harm suffered by consumers as a result of the conduct in question. ”
The ACCC has taken action against animal production industries over labeling issues, it was revealed.
Luv-a-Duck, Pepe’s Ducks and Turi Foods companies have been targeted for misleading labeling using statements such as “free to roam” or images of open spaces.
What is the difference, asked the senators.
Mr Greiss said each application was assessed on its own merits.
This was a much clearer case of creating a false statement than descriptors like beef or chicken alongside warnings like plant-based ones, he said.
“When you look at the full representation in the current packaging, it doesn’t create the general impression that this is a beef or chicken product. At most, it creates a feeling of confusion, which the courts have ruled not to infringe our actions, “he said.
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The story Why ACCC Has Not Taken Action Regarding Vegan Food Labels first appeared on Online farm.