Made in Australia: It’s a common marketing tool designed to open wallets using nationalism as a lever.
And customer testimonials are there to give potential buyers confidence that what they are looking at is good value.
But is it really made in Australia and are the customer recommendations real?
The consumer watchdog the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) has for the first time taken a company to court over fake testimonials.
Also at issue was a website, and associated youtube clips, claiming that solar panels for sale had been manufactured in Australia when in fact they came from China.
The Federal Court today imposed a $125,000 fine against Euro Solar and Australian Solar Panel under company names of P & N Pty Ltd, P & N NSW Pty Ltd and Worldwide Energy and Manufacturing Pty Ltd.
And the man behind the companies, Nikunjkumar Patel, has been fined $20,000.
A competitor in the solar panel industry saw the made in Australia claim online, in newspapers and on television between November 2012 and September 2013.
Today the Federal Court found that video testimonials published on Youtube and written testimonials published on its website were not made by genuine customers.
ACCC Chairman Rod Sims says we should be able to trust that testimonials give honest feedback about a consumer’s experiences with a service or product.
“If they are not genuine, consumers may be enticed into making a purchase that they would not have otherwise made,” he says.
Claims such as country of origin can be a powerful marketing tool for businesses, with consumers often prepared to pay a premium for products made in Australia.
In his judgment, Justice Besanko found that the companies and Mr Patel engaged in careless and reckless conduct and knew that the representations made were both false and misleading.
He also found that it was “suggested in some of the advertisements that not only were the solar panels made in Australia but that customers or potential customers ought to be supporting them because of that fact”.
These representations were a central part of the company’s business and marketing strategy.
In addition to penalties, the Court also made other orders by consent including corrective advertising and a contribution towards the ACCC’s costs.