The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission instituted proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia on 17 September against Woolworths Ltd (Woolworths) alleging that Woolworths made false or misleading representations about the safety of certain Woolworths products. It is also alleged that Woolworths failed to file mandatory reports as required by the Australian Consumer Law once it had become aware that serious injury or illness may have been caused by certain Woolworths products.

“Consumers are entitled to expect that the goods that they purchase from retailers are safe, and that retailers will act swiftly when product defects are subsequently identified, to avoid further potential harm to consumers,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

The ACCC alleges that Woolworths made false or misleading representations about the safety of three Woolworths home brand products: Abode 3L Stainless Steel Deep Fryer, Woolworths Select Drain Cleaner 1L and Homebrand Safety Matches (10 boxes per pack). The ACCC alleges that by offering these products for sale, Woolworths represented that they were safe when they were not, and that by continuing to sell them once it was aware these products may have caused serious injury Woolworths continued to make false or misleading representations that these products were safe.

The ACCC also alleges that Woolworths made false or misleading representations about the weight capacity of the Woolworths Home Collection Padded Flop Chair and Masters Home Improvement Folding Stepping Stool, as these products did not withstand the maximum weight load stated on their packaging.

These products have all subsequently been recalled by Woolworths.

The ACCC is seeking pecuniary penalties, declarations, injunctions, findings of fact, publicity orders, an order that Woolworths implement a product safety compliance program, an order that Woolworths publish information to raise consumer awareness about product safety and how to report safety incidents, and costs.

The matter has been set down for a directions hearing in Sydney at 9:30 am on 3 October 2014.

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