Country of origin labeling in Australia

Introduction

A country of origin claim is a representation that a good was made or produced in a particular country, such as ‘Made in Australia' or ‘Product of India'.

Representations can be made explicitly such as with a label, or can be implied, through the use of flags or symbols.

Changes to the Trade Practices Act 1974 (TPA) were made in 1998 to encourage more businesses to include country of origin information on their goods.

The TPA includes legal protections for origin claims that comply with specified criteria, often referred to as 'safe harbour' tests.

For many goods made or produced in Australia there are no mandatory country of origin labelling requirements. So the decision to display origin information on a good rests with the manufacturer or producer.

There are some classes of goods for which origin labelling is mandatory (e.g. see the requirements for certain imported goods below).

The Trade Practices Act 'safe harbour' tests

‘Made In'

To carry an unqualified ‘made in' claim and ensure compliance with the Trade Practices Act 1974, a product must be:

  • Substantially transformed in the country represented;
  • A minimum of 50 per cent of production costs must be incurred in the country represented.

‘Product of’

‘Product/produce of' category of claims denotes very high levels of local content. To carry an unqualified ‘product of' label and ensure compliance with the Trade Practices Act 1974:

  • All of the significant ingredients or components of the product come from the country represented;
  • Virtually all of the production/manufacturing processes associated with the product occur within the country represented.

Qualified claims

Qualified claims of origin include statements such as ‘Made in Italy from Australian wool' or ‘Made in Australia with local and imported ingredients'. These claims provide greater information to consumers than do general claims of origin. Where a product fails to meet either of the defences provided above, a qualified claim may be permissible under the TPA, provided that it does not mislead or deceive consumers.

Other origin claims

Other kinds of origin claims not specifically protected by provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974 may be made without restriction, provided they are not misleading or deceptive. For example:

  • Fresh or processed produce that has been grown in Australia could be labelled "Grown in Australia" or "Australian Grown";
  • Spring water collected and bottled in Australia could be labelled "Australian Water: Bottled in Australia".

Labeling of imported goods

The Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act 1905 and associated regulations require certain goods to be labelled with the country of production or manufacture for import into Australia. These goods may not legally be held or sold in Australiawithout the required origin marking. The TPA requires that such origin markings must not be false or misleading and must comply with the tests provided for in the Act relating to 'made in...' and 'product of...' claims.

Logo or other graphic representations to depict country of origin

Graphic representations, such as logos, symbols and pictures can be used to represent country of origin information. The legislation covers any representation, whether it be on a product, packaging or related advertising material, that implies that a good has some association with a particular country. Examples of pictorial representations include the use of national flags, the Eiffel tower on French goods, symbols such as kangaroos, koalas and boomerangs on Australian goods, or the use of a maple leaf on Canadian products.

If you choose to use a graphic representation of origin, you must ensure that the flag or symbol used does not mislead or deceive consumers into thinking that a product has originated in a particular country when this is not the case. Any text or symbols that attempt to qualify pictorial representations must be sufficiently prominent to ensure that consumers are aware of them and understand their significance.

‘Australian Made' logo

You may use this logo provided you have a licence from the Australia Made Campaign Ltd to use the logo and your products comply with the requirements specified in the Code of Practice for use of the logo.

Further information about the use of the ‘Australian Made' logo may be obtained by contacting:

Australian Made Campaign Limited

GPO Box 4352

MELBOURNE VIC 3001

Free call: 1800 350 520

http://www.australianmade.com.au

Penalties for misleading claims

A corporation that makes a false or misleading country of origin claim can attract a fine of up to $200,000 per offence under the Trade Practices Act 1974. Individuals may be fined up to $40,000 for a similar offence.

Enforcing the laws

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) enforces the laws.

Who should I contact if I'm worried about my own country of origin claims, or if I think one of my competitors is breaking the law?

Businesses should contact the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). The ACCC is happy to respond to telephone, written or facsimile inquiries, but cannot provide ‘legal advice'. Contact details for the ACCC may be obtained from the Commission's web site at www.accc.gov.au.

Please note that the information provided on this page:

  • Does not provide a complete or authoritative statement of the law;
  • Does not constitute legal advice by Net Lawman;
  • Does not create a contractual relationship;
  • Does not form part of any other advice, whether paid or free.
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