Consumer goods giant Kimberly-Clark Australia has been ordered by the Federal Court to pay a penalty of $200,000 for misleading the country’s consumers.
The local operation of the global multinational was found guilty of falsely representing on its website that its Kleenex Cottonelle ‘flushable cleansing cloths’ were made in Australia. In fact, they were manufactured in Germany, South Korea or the UK.
False representations were made on the product website
Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which brought the case to court, said the false representations were made on the product website between 28 October 2015 and 24 February 2016.
However, the ACCC conceded that the product packaging contained the correct information about where the wipes were made.
In June 2019, the Federal Court had found that Kimberly-Clark made false or misleading representations that the products were Australian-made after Kimberly-Clark admitted this during the court case.
Another case against Kimberly-Clark dismissed by court
In the same hearing, the court dismissed the major aspect of the ACCC’s case about whether the wipes were suitable to be flushed down the toilet, finding the company had not made false and misleading claims about the ‘flushabilty’ of the wipes. These findings were upheld by the Full Federal Court following an appeal by the ACCC.
The latter case related to a type of wipes sold by Kimberly-Clark between May 2013 and May 2016. The products have since been discontinued and replaced with a different range of flushable wipes.
“We know many Australian consumers place a premium on goods that are Australian-made,” the Chair of the ACCC, Rod Sims said.
Consumers should make informed purchasing decisions
“This penalty should remind businesses of their responsibilities to ensure that representations on their website or packaging about the country of origin are accurate, so that consumers can make informed purchasing decisions.”
The ACCC was initially made aware of Kimberly-Clark’s ‘flushable’ claims following a complaint from CHOICE – the consumer advocacy group and consumer publication – in October 2015, after it received a ‘Shonky’ award to the Kleenex Wipes for Kids.
Kimberly-Clark’s ‘made in Australia’ misrepresentation was identified during the course of this investigation.