Misleading Consumers: Can True Statements Still be Misleading or Deceptive?
Under Australian Consumer Law, companies cannot make false or misleading statements to consumers or engage in misleading or deceptive conduct.
In a recent case, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) alleged that Heinz was selling children's food products claiming that they were healthy when in fact they were not. The ACCC took action over products called "Little Kids Shredz Products" which were made for children aged 1-3 years. The packaging stated that the products were made from "99% fruits and vegetables" and had pictures of fresh fruit and vegetables on the box.
The ACCC claimed that the statements on the box were misleading because they created the impression that the products were healthy and nutritious. The products actually contained over 60% sugar which is far higher than the sugar content in natural fruits and vegetables. The ingredients of the products did contain fruits and vegetables, however, it was made up of fruit juice concentrates and pastes and were not natural fruits and vegetables.
The court acknowledged that statements that may literally be true can still be misleading and deceptive in the way they are perceived. The Court decided in the end that Heinz had indeed misled consumers and the products were no longer sold in stores.