The Federal Court of Adelaide has ordered Panasonic to establish a trade practices compliance program for staff after it was found guilty of misleading consumers in a 2008 Nintendo Wii promotion.
The promotion offered a Bonus Nintendo Wii gaming console by redemption to shoppers who purchased a participating television.
In order to submit a claim, consumers had to enclose the serial number and send it off within 14 days of purchase. But the serial number was only obtainable on delivery of the television to the consumer and there was no guarantee that a consumer would receive the unit within 14 days.
The court found that Panasonic engaged in "misleading or deceptive conduct" and found the advertising to contain "fleeting fine print".
The court ordered that Panasonic establish and maintain a trade practices compliance program for three years to ensure that Panasonic staff are aware of their obligations under the Trade Practices Act 1974. Under the program Panasonic has to:
- Appoint a director or a senior employee with suitable qualifications or experience in corporate compliance as Compliance Officer.
- Take all reasonable steps to ensure that there is a director or a senior employee appointed as Compliance Officer.
- Compliance officer reports in writing to Panasonic's board of directors every six months with respect to the on-going maintenance and administration of the Compliance Program.
- Establish a Compliance Policy which is communicated in writing to all employees within the next two months.
As the case was a result of action by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Panasonic was also ordered to pay the ACCC's legal costs. The ACCC declined to disclose the amount.
"This outcome sends a warning about inducing consumers by offering free or bonus goods as 'cash-back' or 'redemption' offers and failing to deliver," ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said.