Major Australian egg producer found guilty of deceiving consumers
Humane Society International (HSI) is thrilled by today's news that one of Australia's largest egg producers has been found guilty in WA's Federal Court of falsely labelling eggs as free range. Snowdale Holdings Pty Ltd, who trade as Swan Valley Egg Farm and Eggs by Ellah, were fighting the charges of misleading and deceptive conduct by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
HSI's initial investigations revealed that Swan Valley may have been falsely labelling their eggs as 'free range' and in 2012 we submitted a formal complaint to the ACCC. The ACCC ran their own investigation and found there was a case to answer. Subsequent to this, a West Australian newspaper revealed that not only were the hens far from free range but also uncovered evidence of cruel and unsanitary conditions impacting thousands of hens.
HSI Director Verna Simpson said, "We are delighted that Snowdale has been found guilty. Our investigations found them to be misrepresenting the term 'free range' and duping the Australian public for years. As one of the biggest suppliers to both the major supermarkets in WA, the scale of this deception is mind boggling. ACCC carried out their own thorough investigation and today justice has been done.”
HSI is hopeful this news will mean that WA's supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths now drop these eggs and stop selling the contentious produce in their stores. How this massive deception was not uncovered by the supermarkets' own quality assurance schemes is a question that needs to be answered.
Reportedly the ACCC claims that Perth-based Snowdale sold 71 per cent of its eggs as 'free range' from 2012-2013, charging consumers a premium. HSI expects the fine to reflect the profits Snowdale made since they classed themselves as a 'free range' farmer in 1998 according to the evidence given by Swan Valley Eggs proprietor Barry Cocking. "Mr Cocking has made a fortune from his deception for many years and we believe the fine needs to be aligned to the egg sales,” said Ms Simpson.
Ms Simpson concluded, "This is a great day for Australian consumers. What we expect is that the courts protect us from deceptive claims, and this company has for 14 years been charging a premium for eggs produced in anything but free range conditions. Following yesterdays guilty verdict HSI is hopeful that the supermarkets will verify all claims through their own quality assurance schemes. This is something that both Coles and Woolworths claim but if they had quality assurance schemes this travesty would not have occurred for more than a decade.”