Coles freshly baked goods come under fire

Claims by Coles that its baked goods are freshly baked in store have drawn the ire of the ACCC. The ACCC is pursuing Coles for false, misleading or deceptive claims in relation to the bakery items. If the ACCC is successful, Coles could be up for some serious dough.

 

The goods are either baked in part off-site, frozen and finished in store or are partially baked overseas. The ACCC is concerned that consumers will be misled where there is no distinction between goods that are par-baked onsite and those that are fully baked onsite. There is also the issue of the competitive disadvantage Coles’ advertising creates for local bakers who do bake onsite from scratch.

 

The legal issues are straightforward. The court will consider whether an ordinary person would be misled by slogans like “Baked Today, Sold Today” and “Freshly Baked In-Store”. The ACCC needs to prove its case under S 29 of the Australian Consumer Law, which relates to false or misleading representations. It is hard to see how Coles could successfully claim advertising that states goods are baked onsite when they are partially baked elsewhere would not mislead people.

 

Maximum penalties per contravention of the ACL start at $1.1 million. Courts have been bold lately ordering multimillion-dollar penalties in several misleading cases. Having just received a penalty notice in relation to fresh produce and false “Australian grown” claims across five stores, the Court may want to make an examples of Coles.