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ACCC appeals court decision on Woolworths’ Select Eco range

Australia’s consumer watchdog has appealed a Federal Court decision last month which ruled in favour of supermarket giant Woolworths on the compostability of its Select Eco picnic products.

In July, the Federal Court dismissed allegations by the ACCC that the supermarket mislead consumers about environmental claims surrounding the range, which was sold between 2014 and 2017.

The products were made from materials derived from corn starch or sugarcane and were labelled “biodegradable and compostable” based on the application of internationally accepted standards.

The ACCC is appealing the decision on the basis that Woolworths made claims about future matters and believes the retailer did not have reasonable grounds to make them.

In the case last month, the judge found that the likely performance of the range was not a ‘future matter’ because the reference to “biodegradable and compostable” was about the inherent characteristics of the product rather than “a prediction, forecast, promise or opinion of a future event”.

The Court found that if Woolworths had made the claims in the terms alleged by the ACCC, it would not have had reasonable grounds to do so.

“We are appealing this case because we think that the biodegradable and compostable claims made by Woolworths were predictions about what would happen to these products in the future,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

“Consumers who pay more for products which businesses represent are better for the environment should be able to assume those claims are true.”

Sims said that if businesses make claims about future matters, they must have a reasonable basis for those claims.

A spokesperson for Woolworths told Inside FMCG on Monday that it will continue to defend its position on the matter.

“The Federal Court made clear findings that the picnic products were biodegradable and compostable,” the spokesperson said.

“We will continue to defend the matter.”

Last week, the ACCC appealed another high profile environmental case, in which it alleges Kimberly-Clark misled consumers on the flushability of its Kleenex Cottonelle wipes.

The ACCC first took action against Woolworths in March 2018. A date has not yet been set for the appeal hearing in the Woolworths case.

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