Small businesses around the country are hurting from the growing duopoly of the big two supermarkets, Coles and Woolworths.
But instead of focusing on these claims, or the myriad of competition issues which face small businesses, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission set its sights on Australian food icon Maggie Beer.
Last week the cook, restaurateur, philanthropist, former Senior Australian of the Year and small business woman issued a groveling apology to the competition watchdog and Maggie Beer Product customers.
What was her horrendous crime?
It turns out Beer labels Maggie Beer Products with the phrase “Barossa Food Tradition” and includes the address of her business in the Barossa Valley, South Australia on all Maggie Beer Product labels.
Beer does this as four out of the 200 or so Maggie Beer Products are made in Victoria and Queensland rather than in South Australia.
The ACCC claims this is misleading and deceptive and extracted an apology and correction from Beer.
Yes the words “Barossa Food Tradition” could be interpreted as meaning the product was made in the Barossa but they could also mean the products were made using the same styles and techniques in the Barossa.
The ACCC also had an issue with the words “made in Australia” which is a little confusing given even the four offending products were still made in Australia rather than offshore.
The ACCC pointed to the inclusion of Beer’s address on the labels even though it’s not entirely unreasonable to expect the address would refer to Beer’s head office rather than the place of manufacture.
Intellectual property law expert Natalie Hickey goes through these details and more in a comprehensive legal analysis concluding the ACCC’s case against Beer looks “no more than arguable”.
“A judge might well have gone the other way,” she says.
And guess who was one of the businesses which provided evidence against Beer?
The ACCC cited evidence Maggie Beer Products made representations at a fair event at a Woolworths store and in correspondence with Woolworths that the four products were made in South Australia or were otherwise “local” products.
The same Beer who was brave enough to criticise the dominance of the two supermarkets two years ago.
Poor old Woolworths deceived by nasty Beer.
It really breaks your heart doesn’t it?