Supermarket chain Coles has been banned for three years from advertising that its bread was made or baked on the day it was sold.
Coles was also ordered to display a Federal Court notice in its stores and on its website telling shoppers that it had broken Australian consumer law by falsely advertising bread products as “freshly baked” and “baked today”.
The retail giant has been ordered to post the notice, saying it was false, deceptive and misled customers, for 90 days in prominent in-store locations.
Federal Court judge Justice James Allsop has not yet ruled on a possible fine, which could run to millions of dollars.
Earlier this year Coles was found to have made false claims about the freshness of its bread after an investigation by the ACCC.
ACCC investigators had argued that some of the falsely advertised bread products were made in countries such as Germany and Ireland before being frozen and brought to Australia.
The ACCC said the falsely advertised bread was sold under the brands Coles Bakery and Cuisine Royale.
A Coles spokesman said the supermarket could have been clearer on how the bread was produced, and said it would comply with all orders made by the Federal Court.
“Packaging and marketing materials for the affected bakery products were changed some time ago, and a final check of stores will be complete within seven days to ensure any affected signage has been removed,” he said.
The spokesman said Coles did not deliberately set out to mislead consumers.
“It was never Coles’ intention to mislead our customers, but we accept that we could have done a better job in explaining how these products are made, and we have already made changes to ensure customers are properly informed,” he said.
“Whether baked from scratch in-store or ‘par baked’ by our suppliers and finished in our ovens, our bread and baked goods are excellent quality products which taste great and remain popular with customers.”
Consumer advocacy group CHOICE welcomed the Federal Court ruling against Coles.
Tom Godfrey from CHOICE said customers paid a premium for fresh produce and needed to be able to have confidence in product labels.
“I think it’s very welcome news that the Federal Court has decided to ban Coles for three years from making dodgy claims,” he said.
“Because, at the end of the day, these claims were ridiculous: freshly baked and baked today, when the bread was actually coming from overseas, as far as Ireland.
“I think most consumers would have found those claims very hard to swallow.”
The case was brought by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission after former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett complained when he discovered a loaf of Coles bread that was advertised as freshly baked in-store had been made in Ireland.
– with ABC/AAP