Popular eyewear retailer Oscar Wylee has been fined a whopping $3.5 million for making misleading representations about its charitable donations.
The Federal Court today also ordered the retailer to publish statements on its social media pages and website explaining its breaches of the Australian Consumer Law.
According to the ACCC, between January 2014 and December 2018, Oscar Wylee made promotional statements that for each pair of glasses a consumer purchased, it donated another pair of glasses to someone in need.
ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER THIS ADVERTISEMENT
However, the consumer watchdog said that in almost five years, Oscar Wylee sold 328,010 pairs of glasses but donated only 3,181 frames to charity, without lenses.
“Oscar Wylee promoted its charitable activities as a core reason why consumers should buy Oscar Wylee glasses, but its claims were false and were made in circumstances where consumers could not easily verify these claims for themselves,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
“The misleading conduct also portrayed Oscar Wylee as a socially-conscious company that made significant donations of glasses to people in need, which, because this was not true, unfairly differentiated it from other brands in the market.
“At the same time, Oscar Wylee deprived disadvantaged people in need of the benefits it promised in its advertising,” Ms Rickard said.
The company also admitted to making misleading representations about its affiliation with charitable organisation Rose Charities.
According to the ACCC, Oscar Wylee claimed they had partnered with the organisation to “build sustainable eye care programs in Cambodia”.
However, the extent of the partnership consisted of a single donation of $2,000 and 100 frames in 2014.
“No further donations or support were provided to Rose Charities after this time, despite Oscar Wylee continuing to claim an affiliation with the charity until late 2018,” Ms Rickard.
“Oscar Wylee has taken advantage of the charitable nature and goodwill of consumers and its behaviour risks diminishing consumer confidence to support other businesses that genuinely engage in philanthropic activities.
“This penalty should serve as a reminder for any company considering making false claims to its customers in its marketing material, whether online, by email, on video, on social media or in store.”
In a statement to myGC, Oscar Wylee said they have “taken corrective action in response to the court action and in line with our ongoing commitment to corporate social responsibility”.
“We have donated 336,585 pairs of glasses frames and $80,000 cash donations to charities supporting eyecare for the disadvantaged.
“We have also adopted a strict Trade Practices Compliance Policy, directed to the protection of consumers, and appointed a Compliance Officer responsible for its implementation.
The company said it “acknowledges the importance of the issues raised by the ACCC” and “sincerely regrets the contraventions of the ACL.”