What is a country or origin claim?
A country of origin claim is a representation that a good was made or produced in a particular country. Examples would be “Made in Australia” or “Product of India”.
Consumers have an interest in knowing where a product was grown or made. To some extent, location affects the quality or the perceived quality of the product, and therefore the price. Buyers might also be interested to buy local for environmentally friendly reasons.
Representations as to origin can be made explicitly, such as in writing on a label, or can be implied, through the use of flags or symbols.
Where a product moves through multiple stages of production in different countries, buyers might be interested to know where each stage was carried out. Clothing using New Zealand wool that is spun and knitted into a garment in Australia could be claimed to be from either country.
The law regarding country of origin claims
The Country of Origin Food Labeling Information Standard 2016 (the “Standard”) was introduced on 1 July 2016 under s.134 of Australian Consumer Law. It came into effect on 1 July 2018.
Products that are grown, produced or made in Australia require the following information to be shown on packaging:
- a logo with a kangaroo within a triangle
- a bar chart showing the percentage of Australian ingredients
- and a statement explaining whether the food has been grown, produced or made in Australia or not, along with indication of percentage of Australian ingredients.
Foods that are only packed in Australia are prohibited to use the Kangaroo within a triangle logo on their labels.
Foods that are grown, produced or made in a country other than Australia must be labeled with the country of their origin.
Failure to comply with the legal requirements might result in a penalty of up to $1.1 million for a corporation or $220,000 for an individual. In addition, a court might also make corrective advertising orders, compensatory orders or might impose injunctions for breaches.
To carry an unqualified “made in” claim and ensure compliance with the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, a product must be substantially transformed in the country represented.
In practice that means that a minimum of 50 percent of production costs must be incurred in the country represented in the “made in” claim.
“Product of” and “Produce of” claims denote a very high level of local content. To carry these claims unqualified and ensure compliance with The Competition and Consumer Act 2010:
- all of the significant ingredients or components of the product must come from the country represented and
- the majority of the production or manufacturing processes associated with the product must occur within the country represented.
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 requirements for food or products “made in”, a qualified claim may be permissible under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, 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 Australia without the required origin marking.
The Competition and Consumer Act 2010 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, national monuments such as the Eiffel Tower on French products, 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.