Sportswear brand Lorna Jane has been ordered to dish out $5 million in penalties for misleading consumers, after falsely claiming its "Anti-virus Activewear" was treated with a spray that kills COVID-19.
In court the company admitted to claiming its FJ Shield spray "eliminated", "stopped the spread" and "protected wearers" against "viruses including COVID-19".
The claims were made between 2-23 July 2020, while slogans displayed in-store and online also 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.
Despite earlier making out that the company had a scientific or technological basis for making the anti-viral claims about its LJ Shield Activewear, it was revealed no tests were in fact carried out.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) first instituted proceedings against Lorna Jane late last year, following a separate series of infringement notices from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) which cost the company a total of $39,960.
ACCC Chair Rod Sims welcomed the latest decision, saying the conduct was particularly harmful since consumers cannot easily check or monitor the claims made."The whole marketing campaign was based upon consumers' desire for greater protection against the global pandemic," he said.
"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'.".
Justice Darryl Rangiah also pointed out that "the conduct emanated from a high managerial level within the company", and found that company director and chief creative officer Lorna Jane Clarkson was personally involved in crafting and delivering the campaign.
Prior to the hearing, though, the company cooperated with the ACCC, making admissions and agreeing to make joint submissions regarding the imposition of penalties.
By consent, Lorna Jane has been ordered to publish corrective notices, establish a consumer law compliance program, and pay the ACCC's costs. The company is also barred from making any "anti-virus claims" for the next three years, unless it has a reasonable basis for doing so.
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