Glasses chain Oscar Wylee is being sued by the consumer watchdog for allegedly making misleading claims about donations to charity.
The Australian company, which has 52 stores and operates online, had advertised that for every pair of glasses purchased, a pair was donated to someone in need.
However, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has alleged that Oscar Wylee only donated around 3000 pairs of glasses over the five years between 2014-2018, despite selling more than 320,000 pairs.
In a statement, Oscar Wylee said it will “vigorously defend” the legal action.
“We utterly reject the allegations made by the ACCC, which do not reflect the range and scale of the community and charitable contributions made by Oscar Wylee,” the company said.
“Oscar Wylee has to date donated more than 350,000 pairs of glasses to charity organisations including Sight for All. Monetary donations in that period total $130,865.”
These allegations come a week after the ACCC revealed supermarket giant Coles passed on only 3.5 cents per litre of the 10-cent drought levy to one co-operative, as it promised to do for all dairy farmers.
The ACCC said it believed it had a “strong case to allege misleading conduct by Coles” but instead accepted the supermarket’s commitment to pay $5.25 million to the Norco dairy co-operative, as it would get the money into farmers’ pockets sooner.
In the case of Oscar Wylee, the ACCC’s deputy chair Delia Rickard said the claims were “extremely egregious” and “exploited consumers’ desire to support charitable causes”.
“Instead, we allege Oscar Wylee donated less than 1 per cent of the glasses it said it would.”
The ACCC said Oscar Wylee’s alleged misleading or deceptive conduct occurred between at least January 2014 and December 2018.
Oscar Wylee’s website now contains an updated claim, that “for every pair of frames sold, we donate a portion of the sales price”.
In addition, the regulator has alleged that over the same five-year period, Oscar Wylee said it had “partnered” with Rose Charities to build eye care programs in Cambodia, but had only made a single $2000 donation and donated 100 frames.
Ms Rickard said the case came to the ACCC’s attention following an investigation by ophthalmic industry publication Insight News.
“We are concerned that consumers may have chosen Oscar Wylee over other eyewear companies because they believed their purchase would result in Oscar Wylee providing glasses to people in need and supporting a sustainable eye care program in Cambodia,” said Ms Rickard.
“Businesses must ensure that if they make claims about their charitable donations, affiliations or partnerships, they are true and can be substantiated.”
The ACCC is seeking penalties in the Federal Court, as well as an order for Oscar Wylee to implement a compliance program.