Woolworths has been rapped in court by the ACCC for making misleading environmental claims around a range of products.
The consumer watchdog has alleged the supermarket made false claims about its W Select eco range of picnic products, implying they were “biodegradable and compostable” without backing up the claims.
It also alleges Woolworths did so knowing there was already confusion around what those terms mean.
The ACCC says that Woolworths' lack of information about the claims also went against its own stated policy which pledges to make sure all environmental claims are “‘accurate, specific and clear; apply to a real environmental benefit; not overstate a benefit and be articulated in plain language".
“Customers paid a premium because they rightfully thought the environmental claims would have been substantiated,” ACCC commissioner Sarah Court says.
“The ACCC also alleges that Woolworths made these claims in circumstances where it was aware there was confusion among consumers and businesses about the meaning of biodegradable and compostable.”
The ACCC is seeking penalties, injunctions, declarations, publication orders and costs.
Woolworths says it is reviewing the claims and "considering its next steps". It also voluntarily withdrew the products from sale in November.
A Woolworths spokesperson says: "At Woolworths we’re committed to doing the right thing for the environment and continue to work hard to drive initiatives that help both us and our customers minimise our impact on the environment.
"We treat our obligations under the Australian Consumer Law very seriously, and understand how important it is that environmental claims are clear and accurate for our customers."
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