Woolworths hit by $3m in penalties over misleading conduct

THE Federal Court has ordered Woolworths to pay more than $3 million in penalties for misleading consumers.

The breaches of the Australian Consumer Law relating to safety issues with house brand products sold in Woolworths supermarkets, Big W and Masters stores.

The Court declared that Woolworths engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and in some cases had made false or misleading representations about the safety of five of its house brand products - a deep fryer, drain cleaner, safety matches, a padded flop chair and a folding stool, over a period of 3 years.

In some cases, Woolworths became aware of serious injuries resulting from defects in these products, but did not remove the products from sale and recall the products.

These products were subsequently removed from sale and recalled, but not always before further injuries resulted from their defects. In these cases the Court found that Woolworths had misled consumers as to the suitability of the products.

In other cases, the Court found that express representations on the products or packaging were false or misleading. For example, the padded flop chair was described as capable of bearing the weight of 115kg when under testing it could not reliably support more than 92kg.

"We remind consumers once again to be aware of the Australian Consumer Law in relation to these issues and encourage anyone with a serious complaint relating to furniture to contact the Australian Furniture Association in the first instance to receive advice on such matters," say AFA CEO, Patrizia Torelli.

ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said "Australian consumers must be able to rely on the safety of goods supplied to them by retailers. By failing to recall and remove products from its shelves for some time after it became aware that the products were defective, Woolworths misled Australian consumers and placed their safety at risk." 

The significant penalties imposed in this case reflect the serious nature of Woolworths' conduct.' 



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