ACCC takes cautionary approach to Country of Origin Labelling compliance

The two-year transition period for the new Country of Origin labelling requirements ended on 1 July 2018. Almost all vendors at farmers markets are required to comply with the new regulations for labelling.

More information on what the requirements are can be found here. If your CoOL labelling is not compliant, now is the time to get yourself organised, before the ACCC turns up at your stall.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has published information outlining their approach to non-compliance on their website:

It’s important that businesses comply with their obligations under the Standard. The ACCC, in conjunction with the National Measurement Institute, will be conducting market surveillance checks to make sure businesses are complying with the Standard. The ACCC also has the power to call on businesses to substantiate their country of origin claims.

However, the ACCC is aware that some businesses may experience practical challenges as they adopt the new labels for their food products. While the ACCC cannot provide exemptions from the law, we do have discretion about the matters we investigate or how we resolve concerns.

Where we identify possible non-compliance we will take into account the surrounding circumstances. For example, the ACCC will generally distinguish between genuine efforts by a business to comply, and a business that makes false or misleading origin claims. The ACCC is unlikely to take enforcement action where a business has taken steps to prepare for the new requirements, is responsive to our concerns and agrees to timely remediation.

In the first year, the ACCC will look to resolve most matters by providing businesses with information and seeking changes to address non-compliance. In line with the principles set out in our Compliance and Enforcement Policy, we will escalate matters for an enforcement approach where stronger action is warranted.

The ACCC is more likely to take enforcement action where:

  • businesses fail to respond to our concerns or choose not to take steps to mitigate compliance failures, or
  • the issues go beyond a failure to comply with new labelling requirements and involve conduct or labelling that is likely to mislead consumers.
  • In addition, the ACCC is more likely to take action where such conduct is undertaken by large or national traders and the conduct impacts a large number of consumers.

So there’s no need to panic, but make sure you’re labelling is compliant.

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