The world’s most recognisable brand is ‘Made in Italy’ so how is it being used to dupe consumers into buying furniture? Have you heard about the new country of origin labelling changes?

There is a Bill before Australian Federal Parliament right now which will affect when you can safely claim to have ‘made’ something in Australia or any other country and in the case of furniture, ‘Made in Italy’ or inference that the item is a product of Italy is top of the list when it comes to the purchasing decision.

‘The AFA has seen a spike in consumer complaints in recent times, with customers reporting that they have been duped into purchasing products that have had their country of origin misrepresented,’ says AFA CEO Patrizia Torelli. ‘Some nations are known for specialising in elements of certain industry sectors, for example Germany for its automotive engineering acumen, Japan for its grasp of technology and Italy for its design expertise and use of quality leathers. It is this expertise that is being sought after by consumers. Sales staff are constantly under pressure to close the deal and referencing these nations as the countries of origin for some products will often help secure the sale.’

In order to give businesses some certainty about when they can safely make a country of origin claim without it raising concerns, the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) sets out certain ‘safe harbour’ defences. The safe harbours provide a clear, objective standard as to what will and will not be regarded as true and accurate when making a country of origin claim. In the furniture industry, the key safe harbour defence relates to claims that a product was ‘made in’ a particular country.

The Competition and Consumer Amendment (Country of Origin) Bill 2016 will amend the ACL’s ‘made in’ safe harbour defence to:
• remove the 50% cost of production test
• clarify the meaning of ‘substantial transformation’.

‘The AFA has been called on to make its submission in relation to the amendment and we are working closely with our members to ensure that they are minimising the risk of any breaches or incurring significant penalties. Most importantly these changes won’t have a transition period so it’s important that members understand what this means for their business before the law takes effect,’ concludes Ms Torelli.

While businesses are not required to meet a safe harbour defence in order to make a country of origin claim, a business that does satisfy the criteria for a safe harbour will have an automatic defence against an allegation that that claim is false, misleading or deceptive.

To learn more about your rights and obligations AFA Members can contact membership@australianfurniture.org.au