The ACCC has accepted a court enforceable undertaking from Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) in relation to concerns that it represented that Byron Bay Pale Lager was brewed by a small brewer in Byron Bay when this was not the case.
The company has also also two Infringement Notices to the value of $20,400 in relation to this conduct.
Readers may recall that in January last year, Australian Brews News broke the story that CUB was seeking to mislead the Australian beer drinker by brewing, marketing and distributing Byron Bay Pale Lager under licence from Byron Bay Brewery.
What followed over the next weeks was a campaign by Australian Brews News to get CUB to transparently acknowledge their involvement in the production of the beer. CUB steadfastly refused to admit any wrongdoing in the marketing.
Today, after a lengthy investigation, the ACCC has found:
3.3 The ACCC is concerned that the overall representation made by the Product labelling is likely to mislead consumers to understand that the beer contained in the bottle has been brewed by BBBC alits small brewery in Byron Bay, New South Wales, when in fact:
(a) the Product was brewed by CUB at one of its breweries; and
(b) that CUB brewery was located in Warnervale, New South Wales. Warnervale is approximately 630 kilometres away by road from Byron Bay.
3.4 CUB acknowledges that the Productlabelling may have misled consumers in the manner identified by the ACCC (referred to in paragraph 3.3 above) and been understood by consumers in that way. CUB also acknowledges that, by making that representation, it is likely to have contravened sections 18 and 29(I)(k) of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) contained in Schedule 2 of the Act.
While the fine is paltry, such action by the ACCC is highly embarrassing for the company and its parent SABMiller, especially when – as I pointed out at the time – SABMiller proclaims the “high standards of ethical behaviour and transparency” and to communicate in an open and honest way with stakeholders.
Importantly the ACCC recognises the point that I argued at the time – being small is one of craft brewer’s only corporate advantages.
“Many small brewers cater to consumers who prefer to support small, niche businesses. When large companies portray themselves as small businesses, it undermines the unique selling point that such small businesses depend upon, and it misleads consumers,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
“The ACCC will be writing to other participants putting them on notice of this matter in order to ensure that marketing and labelling in the beer market appropriately reflects where and by whom beer is brewed.”
“This is an outcome that protects the interests of both beer buyers and small brewers.” Mr Sims said.
CUB has been approached for comment.
Our past coverage of the story…