The Federal Court has ordered Lorna Jane, the well-known manufacturer and retailer of women’s active wear, to pay $5-million in penalties for making false and misleading representations to consumers, as well as for engaging in conduct liable to mislead the public.
This is in connection with the marketing and supply of its ‘LJ Shield Activewear’ product range.
Lorna Jane Pty Ltd admitted that, between 2 and 23 July 2020, it falsely represented to consumers that its LJ Shield Activewear “eliminated”, “stopped the spread” and “protected wearers” against “viruses including Covid-19”.
The misleading representations were made on in-store signage, on its website, on Instagram, in emails to consumers, and in media releases.
Claims that the products could ‘cure the spread’ of Covid
The claims made by Lorna Jane about its LJ Shield Activewear included that it was a“Cure for the Spread of Covid-19? Lorna Jane Thinks So”.
Another claim stated: “LJ Shield is a groundbreaking technology that makes transferal of all pathogens to your Activewear (and let’s face it, the one we’re all thinking about is Covid-19) impossible by eliminating the virus on contact with the fabric”.
Rod Sims, Chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), said Lorna Jane had made the false promotional amidst growing numbers of infections in Australia.
“The whole marketing campaign was based upon consumers’ desire for greater protection against the global pandemic,” he commented.
“The $5-million in penalties imposed by the Court highlights the seriousness of Lorna Jane’s conduct, which the judge called ‘exploitative, predatory and potentially dangerous’.”
Company conceded it had no evidence to back its claims
Lorna Jane also admitted that it had falsely represented it had a scientific or technological basis for making the ‘anti-virus’ claims about the product range, when no such basis existed.
The company conceded that it did not have any scientific test results showing the effectiveness of LJ Shield Activewear on viruses, including Covid-19. Nor did it have any scientific results or evidence which would establish the truth of the representations.
Lorna Jane also admitted that Director and Chief Creative Officer, Lorna Jane Clarkson, authorised and approved the LJ Shield Activewear promotional material, was involved in crafting the words and developing the imagery used in the marketing campaign, and personally made some of the false statements contained in a media release and an Instagram video.
“This was dreadful conduct as it involved making serious claims regarding public health when there was no basis for them,” Sims said.
“This type of conduct is particularly harmful where, as here, consumers cannot easily check or monitor the claims made.”