The ACCC is seeking penalties of at least $4-5 million over Coles’ Australian consumer law breaches for its “fresh” bread claims.
In a penalty hearing in the Federal Court on Tuesday, Colin Golvan, SC, said a hefty fine was appropriate due to the size of the company, scale of conduct and consumer reach, Fairfax Media reports.
“This case is one in which consumers are led to the cash register on the basis of misconceptions about the manufacturing process,” Golvan said.
But lawyers for Coles debated the severity of the misleading conduct, saying continuing strong sales of partially baked bread, despite revelations it was not made wholly in-store, showed the consumer “doesn't care.”
Philip Crutchfield, SC, for Coles, said "just because we're big, we shouldn't get hit with a record fine".
In June 2013, The ACCC launched legal proceedings against Coles, accusing the supermarket of engaging in deceptive and misleading conduct, relating to the claims on various ‘Cuisine Royale’ and ‘Coles Bakery’ branded bread products.
One year later, the federal court ruled that the supermarket misled shoppers by claiming that its bread together with a range of other baked goods were “freshly baked” or “Baked Fresh” when it had actually been par baked months earlier in factories overseas.
Coles was then slapped with a three year ban on advertising that its bread was made, or baked on the day that it’s sold.