The iconic Australian “Ugg Boot” brand has been taking a bit of battering of late, with a number of disputes over the years in relation to the ownership of the “Ugg Boot” name (as we have reported in a past newsletter). But the most recent Ugg Boot debacle involves a slightly different issue, and provides another reminder for businesses to ensure that their marketing is not seen as misleading or deceptive.
The ACCC has recently instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against an Australian online retailer for allegedly marketing its Ugg Boots as “made in Australia” when they were in fact made in China. The conduct that appears to have caught the eye of the watchdog is representations via various websites that may suggest that the Ugg Boots are made in Australia.
As you probably already know, the Trade Practices Act, recently renamed the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, prohibits businesses from conduct that is misleading or deceptive. And this includes making any false or misleading representations about the place or origin of goods.
Breaches of the Act can result in fines, legal costs and not least of all, bad publicity. Not to mention the risk of actions against you by your clients if they feel they have been misled in any way.
This case is a timely reminder of the importance of keeping a firm eye on any of your marketing or advertising, including the kinds of representations that you make in brochures, on your website, or in any kind of advertising or marketing you engage in. And in this new age of social media, the avenues for you to make a slip up are greatly increased – don’t forget that comments on Twitter, Linked In, or Facebook you or your staff make can also be used as evidence of misleading statements.
Here are a few tips for keeping out of trouble:
- Be careful of representations you make about the country of origin, the timing of delivery, comparisons to other competitors or products and how you calculate discounts
- Be VERY careful when using words like “free”, “best”, “new”
- Use a disclaimer where relevant, and ensure that it is clearly part of the main body of the advertisement
- Use wording that is unambiguous – get a number of people to review ANY marketing material before it goes out
Of course the list above certainly isn’t exhaustive. In fact, it really doesn’t even start to scratch the surface. So if it all becomes a bit too difficult, don’t hesitate to call in the experts. We offer a number of advertising clearance services to take the weight off your shoulders.