Women's activewear group Lorna Jane has been taken to task by the consumer watchdog by what it says are false or misleading claims relating to a range of anti-COVID products it has been marketing.
The move follows enforcement action by the Therapeutic Goods administration in July over the same matter that cost the company $39,960 in fines.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has launched a separate Federal Court action against Lorna Jane Pty Ltd, alleging its "Anti-virus Activewear" claims were in breach of Australian Consumer Law.
It also alleges that Lorna Jane director and chief creative officer Lorna Jane Clarkson was knowingly concerned in the alleged conduct.
The activewear treated with a product branded LJ Shield was launched in July and heralded by the company as either eliminating or stopping the spread of COVID-19 and other contagious pathogens.
The ACCC notes a number of marketing slogans made by Lorna Jane on social media, its website and in-store campaigns in relation to the value of its product. These included:
Cure for the Spread of COVID-19? Lorna Jane Thinks So
With Lorna Jane Shield on our garments it meant that we were completely eliminating the possibility of spreading any deadly viruses
LJ Shield Protecting you with ANTI-VIRUS ACTIVEWEAR.
According to the Lorna Jane website at the time: "LJ Shield breaks through the membrane shell of any toxic diseases, bacteria or germs that come into contact with it, not only killing that microbe but preventing it from multiplying into any more."
The ACCC says Clarkson also was personally involved in making false or misleading claims about the LJ Shield Anti-virus Activewear through a media release and a video posted on the Lorna Jane Instagram account.
While most of these claims were taken down by Lorna Jane in mid-July and the product rebranded as "anti-bacterial" following the fine issued by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the ACCC says that they still appeared on Lorna Jane's garment tags as recently a November.
"It is particularly concerning that allegedly misleading claims that Lorna Jane's LJ Shield Activewear could eliminate the spread of COVID-19 were made at a time when there was fear about a second wave emerging in Australia, especially in Victoria, and all Australians were concerned about being exposed to the virus," says ACCC commissioner Sarah Court.
The ACCC is also alleging that Lorna Jane had falsely claimed its claims for the anti-virus activewear was based on scientific testing.
"We allege that the statements made by Lorna Jane gave the impression that the COVID-19 claims were based on scientific or technological evidence when this was not the case," says Court.
"We are particularly concerned about this because consumers often trust well-known brands and assume that their marketing claims are backed up by solid evidence."
The ACCC is seeking declarations, penalties, injunctions, corrective notices and an order for Lorna Jane to implement a compliance program.