Proceedings follow $40k fine

jogger at beach

The ACCC has begun proceedings against a women’s clothing company for alleged false or misleading claims about its ‘Anti-virus Activewear’

The ACCC alleges that In July 2020, Lorna Jane claimed that its ‘Anti-virus Activewear’, which was sprayed with a substance called ‘LJ Shield’, eliminated and stopped the spread of COVID-19 and provided protection against viruses and pathogens, including COVID-19, when this was not the case.

The claims, made over a wide range of media including on Instagram, on its website and in stores, included “Cure for the Spread of COVID-19? Lorna Jane Thinks So”“With Lorna Jane Shield on our garments it meant that we were completely eliminating the possibility of spreading any deadly viruses”, and “LJ Shield – Protecting you with ANTI-VIRUS ACTIVEWEAR”.

Most of the claims were removed in mid-July, but the ACCC says that until at least November 2020 Lorna Jane continued to represent on garment tags that the garment permanently protected the wearers against pathogens.

“It is particularly concerning that allegedly misleading claims that Lorna Jane’s LJ Shield Activewear could eliminate the spread of COVID-19 were made at a time when there was fear about a second wave emerging in Australia, especially in Victoria, and all Australians were concerned about being exposed to the virus,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.

The ACCC also alleges that Lorna Jane represented that there was a scientific or technological basis for these claims at the time they were made, when no such testing had been carried out.

“We allege that the statements made by Lorna Jane gave the impression that the COVID-19 claims were based on scientific or technological evidence when this was not the case,” Ms Court said.

“We are particularly concerned about this because consumers often trust well-known brands and assume that their marketing claims are backed up by solid evidence.”

“This year, the ACCC prioritised consumer and competition issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and we will continue to look closely at allegations relating to companies seeking to take advantage of the crisis by engaging in illegal conduct to enhance their commercial position or harm consumers,” Ms Court said.

It is also alleged that Lorna Jane director and chief creative officer, Ms Lorna Jane Clarkson, was knowingly concerned in the alleged conduct, including by personally making false or misleading claims about the LJ Shield ‘Anti-virus Activewear’ in a media release and a video posted on Lorna Jane’s Instagram account.

The ACCC is seeking declarations, penalties, injunctions, corrective notices and an order to implement a compliance program.

The proceedings follow action in July by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, which had issued three infringement notices, totalling $39,960, to the company for alleged unlawful advertising in relation to COVID-19.

At the time, Adjunct Professor John Skerritt, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health, warned that, “This kind of advertising could have detrimental consequences for the Australian community, creating a false sense of security and leading people to be less vigilant about hygiene and social distancing”.

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