Twelve more brewers including Lion have agreed to change their beer labels to ensure they do not mislead consumers following the Byron Bay Pale Lager proceedings, ACCC chair Rod Sims has told Radio Brews News exclusively.
Sims said the competition and consumer watchdog wrote to a large number of brewers, “to make sure they understood what had happened and what it meant for them”.
“Fundamentally we’ve been trying to get two things, one is to get them to say when it’s in fact a big company that’s making the product,” he said.
“Also we’re making sure that when you’ve got a small company, if they start to brew the beer under contract, that they make that clear on the back of the label.”
Sims told Radio Brews News that 12 different brewers had changed their labelling approach and the watchdog is still in discussion with others.
“I’m delighted, for example, to acknowledge that the Lion Group is now saying that, when it’s one of their beers, that they’ll say on the back of the label that this particular beer is ‘part of the Lion Group’,” he said.
“We’ve been so far pleased with the response from industry. We’re still talking with a number of other players we’d like to get on board.”
Sims said that while the ACCC’s dealings with others brewers subsequent to the Byron Bay proceedings had been consultative in nature, the Commission will certainly escalate matters where appropriate.
“Had we not got the undertaking from CUB in the case of Byron Bay beer, then we would have taken them to court,” he said.
“If we find something that we think is egregious, really bad, really very misleading, then we won’t hesitate to take court action if we don’t get the co-operation we think we need.”
“These things are matters of judgement and resources, but we have made a big commitment to try and make a difference in this craft beer area.”
‘We’ve had talks with Coles’
Sims confirmed the ACCC had been in talks with Coles over the transparency of labelling of its own brand beers, such as Steamrail, which now carries the name of its subsidiary Liquorland.
“We’ve had a lot of discussions with Coles, we’re certainly I think making good progress with those discussions – there may be more to come there,” he said.
He said the rule applied by the ACCC in deciding whether a label is misleading is, ‘what would a reasonable consumer think?’.
“That’s the guiding light. The more some of these bigger companies seek to disguise who they are, the more important it is that we deal with that, because they’re only doing it for one reason and that is to sell more beer,” he said.
“They obviously have the view that if the consumers knew… [everything about the product], they might not sell as much beer.”
Sims said that any brewers that have queries about their labelling can seek guidance from the ACCC via its website.
Episode 53 of Radio Brews News is available here.