Eyewear retailer Oscar Wylee has been ordered by the Federal Court to pay $3.5-million in penalties for misleading or deceptive conduct and making false or misleading representations about its charitable donations and affiliations.
This was in breach of Australian Consumer Law, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said in a statement released on Friday.
Marketing claims made were untrue
The company admitted that between January 2014 and December 2018 it made statements in its social media posts, emails, on its website and via promotional merchandise that, for each pair of glasses a consumer purchased, it donated another pair of glasses to someone in need, when in fact it did not do so.
The false marketing claims made by Oscar Wylee included the claims that ‘For every pair purchased, a pair is donated to someone in need’, ‘One for one. All the time. Forever. We donate a pair of glasses to those in need for every pair purchased’ and ‘Buy a pair, give a pair’.
In almost five years, the retail chain sold 328,010 pairs of glasses but donated only 3,181 frames to charity, without lenses, which is about one set of frames for each 100 pairs of glasses sold.
Portrayed itself as socially conscious
“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,” Rickard said.
False claims related to Rose Charities
Oscar Wylee also admitted to making false or misleading representations to consumers between January 2014 and December 2018 that it was closely affiliated with the charitable organisation, Rose Charities.
These claims included statements like ‘We have partnered with Rose Charities which helps build sustainable eye care programs in Cambodia’ and ‘We’re funding Lim studying to be an eye surgeon so he can keep taking solutions into his own hands’.
In fact, Oscar Wylee’s association with Rose Charities during this period 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.