Australian fashion giant Mosaic Brands has been fined $630,000 after admitting to false, misleading and deceptive marketing of hand sanitiser and face masks at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The breaches included inaccurately advertising hand sanitiser as containing 70 per cent alcohol, when it actually only contained 17 per cent, and falsely claiming a different sanitiser was approved by the World Health Organization.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) deputy chair Delia Rickard said a second hand sanitiser, sold by Millers, contained only 58 per cent alcohol despite claims it was 75 per cent alcohol.
Two face masks were also found to be in breach of consumer standards – a children’s mask which was falsely marketed as “CE/FDA certified” and an adult mask which was inaccurately advertised as “non-refundable”.
The products, labelled “health essentials”, were sold between March and June last year amid widespread concern over possible shortages.
“We were particularly concerned about the representations by Mosaic Brands because the statements which Mosaic Brands has admitted were false or misleading related to certain protective health properties at the time of a global pandemic,” Ms Rickard said.
“Our investigation also found that Mosaic Brands’ Kids KN95 mask was not certified by European and US standard authorities as they had advertised.”
As a result, Mosiac Brands – which owns fashion retailers Katies, Noni B, Rockmans, Rivers, BeMe, Crossroads, Millers, W.Lane, and Autograph – has been slapped with five infringement notices and will be forced to contact customers over the next three months to arrange refunds for the products.
The impacted products include the Air Clean hand sanitiser sold on the Noni B website, which was advertised as containing 70 per cent alcohol, Miaoyue hand sanitiser sold by Millers, Velcare-branded hand sanitiser, which the company said was “WHO-approved”, KN95 Kids Safety Face Masks, KN95 Adult Face Masks.
The ACCC said the Velcare sanitiser was sold on Mosaic Brand websites with the tagline: “Protect yourself from viruses and germs during uncertain times with this 10 x Pack of 100ml WHO-approved Hand Sanitizer”.
Mosaic Brands operates more than 1,200 stores across Australia, with the ACCC estimating tens of thousands of face masks and hand sanitisers were sold by the company.