- The ACCC has began court proceedings against eyewear company Oscar Wylee for allegedly misleading customers about its ‘buy a pair, give a pair’ initiative.
- The consumer watchdog said Oscar Wylee made statements on its website and social media saying a pair of glasses would be donated to charity for each pair sold.
- But despite selling more than 320,000 pairs between 2014 and 2018, the ACCC claims only 3,000 pairs of glasses were donated.
- Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.
Oscar Wylee is in hot water.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has begun court proceedings against Aussie eyewear company Oscar Wylee for allegedly making false claims about its charity donations.
The regulator claimed that between at least January 2014 and December 2018, Oscar Wylee promoted an initiative on its website, in emails and on social media that if you buy a pair of its glasses, the company would donate a pair to someone in need.
But despite selling more than 320,000 pairs of glasses during that time frame, the ACCC believes only 3,000 pairs of glasses were donated.
This ‘buy one, give one’ model has been used by several companies such as footwear brand TOMS, eyewear company Warby Parker and bathroom product brand SoapBox. However, the model has drawn some criticism.
Fast Company referred to it as a “band-aid, not a solution, in addressing critical inequity issues,” saying “Improving issues like poverty, access to education, and healthcare requires reconstruction of governance, power, and political structures and systems, not sporadic influxes of arbitrary goods.”
Vox even noted that when Toms looked into the impact of its shoe donations with an outside research team, it found little impact on poor children. “The kids liked the shoes, and used them to play outside a little more often. But there was no significant improvement in their school attendance or self-esteem,” Vox reported.
On top of the alleged misleading information about its glasses, the ACCC also raised an issue with Oscar Wylee’s involvement with Rose Charities, a network of non-profit organisations. Rose Charities operates programs in 18 countries around the world to reduce the impact of poverty and was previously a major donor to the Rose Eye Centre in Cambodia.
According to the consumer watchdog, Oscar Wylee’s entire association with Rose Charities between January 2014 and December 2018 only came down to a $2000 donation and 100 frames donated in early 2014. This is despite claims of the partnership continuing to be made for nearly five years.
ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said Oscar Wylee’s claims made it look like it was engaged in “significant charitable activity” 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,” Rickard said in a statement.
“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.”
Rickard added that businesses “must ensure that if they make claims about their charitable donations, affiliations or partnerships, they are true and can be substantiated.”
Oscar Wylee, however, rejected the ACCC’s claims. An Oscar Wylee spokesperson told Business Insider Australia in an email, “Oscar Wylee will vigorously defend the legal action launched today by the ACCC.
“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.
“Since its founding in 2012, Oscar Wylee has proudly undertaken a range of programs in line with an ongoing commitment to corporate social responsibility.
“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. We take our corporate and social responsibility seriously and have always acted with good intentions.”
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