Optometry retailer Oscar Wylee has been fined $3.5 million for wild exaggerations about its links to charitable causes, including that two small donations meant it “works with” a charity.
The Federal Court on Friday also ordered the retailer to run prominent messages on its website, and Facebook and Instagram pages informing consumers how it made misleading claims over five years.
Between 2014 and 2018, the retailer claimed to be closely affiliated with Rose Charities in a mission to “build sustainable eye care programs in Cambodia”.
However, the extent of the partnership was a total monetary donation of $2000 and 100 glasses frames.
At the same time, it was selling frames to consumers with the promise their purchase would result in another pair being donated to someone in need.
But the 3181 frames donated in the “pair for a pair” campaign were dwarfed by 328,010 sales.
Justice Anna Katzmann described the eyewear donation claims as “brazen”.
She fined Oscar Wylee $2.1 million for those claims and a further $1.4 million for the misleading claims about the links to Rose Charities.
The penalties were in line with those requested by consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Oscar Wylee, which admitted the breaches three weeks before trial, will be able to make the payments in four annual instalments.
It will also have to pay $30,000 of the ACCC’s costs and ensure any charitable claims until 2026 are not false or misleading and are well-documented.
Justice Katzmann’s reasons are expected to be published later on Friday.
Since January 2019 Oscar Wylee has donated more than 300,000 frames to charities, hospitals and prisons, and made a charitable donation of $80,000.
“Oscar Wylee has taken corrective action in response to the court action and in line with our ongoing commitment to corporate social responsibility,” the company said in an email.
“Oscar Wylee acknowledges the importance of the issues raised by the ACCC and sincerely regrets the contraventions of the ACL (Australian Consumer Law).”