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Federal Court spectacle: Oscar Wylee fined $3.5m for its misleading ‘buy a pair, give a pair’ charity claims

06 October 2020

#Competition & Consumer Law, #Technology, Media & Telecommunications

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Federal Court spectacle: Oscar Wylee fined $3.5m for its misleading ‘buy a pair, give a pair’ charity claims

Eyewear retailer Oscar Wylee has been found by the Federal Court to have engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct in breach of the Australian Consumer Law.

From January 2014, for nearly five years, the retailer claimed in its marketing (including on its website and social media) that for each pair of glasses a customer purchased from Oscar Wylee, it would donate a pair to someone in need.

During that period, the court was told the more accurate figure was that Oscar Wylee donated one pair of glasses frames (without lenses) for every ten pairs of glasses it sold. The misleading claims not only related to the number of goods donated but also to the nature of those goods, as most people likely would assume that a ‘pair of glasses’ would include the frame and the lenses, and that such donations would be made in a timely manner.

Oscar Wylee also made generally misleading claims in relation to its charitable activities, stating that it had partnered with Rose Charities which helps build sustainable eye care programs in Cambodia, and promoting its association with this organisation as ongoing. In 2014, Oscar Wylee donated $2,000 and 100 frames to Rose Charities, before these donations ceased and nothing more was donated for the following four years.

The court described the conduct as a ‘betrayal’ of socially conscious customers, who might have based their purchasing decisions on the claims that their purchase would lead to additional benefits, when that was not necessarily the case. It is an important reminder to companies to be very careful in making claims of support of charitable causes and activities, but to also ensure the claims remain current (for example by including such claims on a claims register that is regularly reviewed).

As well as the $3.5 million fine, the court also ordered Oscar Wylee to publish information online explaining its breaches and to pay a contribution towards the ACCC’s costs. Oscar Wylee has also sought to partly redress its conduct, having donated a total of 333,404 glasses frames to charities, foundations, hospitals or prisons and a total of $80,000 to charitable causes between January and December 2019.

Author: Dan Pearce & Emily Booth

The information in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavour to provide accurate and timely information, we do not guarantee that the information in this newsletter is accurate at the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future.

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