Coles has been banned from promoting its bread products as "fresh" for three years as punishment for false advertising. The Federal Court found that breads advertised by Coles as "freshly baked in store" were sometimes produced months previously in other countries. The supermarket giant must also display a notice in its stores and on its website telling shoppers that it has broken Australian consumer law.
As we reported at the time, Coles came under the attention of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in 2013 for misleading advertising relating to its bread products. In various advertisements, Coles claimed that its bread was “freshly baked in store” when it was actually prepared off-site (sometimes months prior in overseas factories) and only "finished" in the supermarket.
In the resulting court case, Coles was found guilty of breaching three sections of Australian Consumer Law. Today's ruling has effectively banned Coles for three years from advertising its bread as being baked on the same day that it's sold or being made from fresh dough.
In addition, it must inform customers of the ban and that it falsely advertised bread as fresh when it had been partially baked and then frozen months earlier. The supermarket also faces fines of up to $3 million
If you run a customer-facing business, the lesson here is to refrain from making claims about your product that you can’t substantiate. If you're a consumer, the lesson is simple: don't believe everything you see in advertisements. Consumer protection laws are not always adhered to; even by companies that should know better.