The Australian Federal Court has ordered Woolworths to pay more than A$3 million (NZ$3.2 million) in penalties for misleading consumers about the safety of some of its house brand products.
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Over three years, from August 2011 to March 2014, Woolworths sold defective products, including a deep-fryer with handles that snapped off and drain cleaner with faulty childproof caps. Woolworths also overstated the strength of a collapsible chair and a folding stool.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) initiated proceedings against Woolworths. “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,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.
In one case, an Australian consumer was burnt by hot oil when the handles broke on the Abode Stainless Steel Deep Fryer. The deep-fryer was sold in Big W stores in Australia from August 2011 until it was recalled in July 2012. The same appliance was sold in Countdown supermarkets in New Zealand between May and July 2012.
Woolworths is the parent company of Progressive Enterprises, which owns and operates more than 180 Countdown supermarkets in New Zealand.