The Federal Court has found that consumer electronics manufacturer Panasonic misled customers in a 2008 promotion in which it had offered a free Nintendo Wii console for customers who purchased one of a certain range of televisions.
According to a statement issued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission today, customers had been required to submit the serial number of the television they purchased to redeem the Wii — within 14 days of purchase.
However, customers could only obtain the serial after their television was delivered — and there was no guarantee by Panasonic that it would be delivered within 14 days. And there were also other aspects of the deal which were not up to par.
“The court considered that the advertising contained fleeting fine print which was difficult to absorb and failed to convey that matters outside the control of the purchaser could disqualify the purchaser from receiving the Bonus Wii,” said the ACCC statement.
The Federal Court has ordered Panasonic to establish and maintain a trade practices compliance program for three years to ensure staff were aware of their legal obligations — and Panasonic will also be forced to pay the ACCC’s legal costs.
The regulator’s chair Graeme Samuel said it was “not enough” to give the impression that conditions applied to offers “in circumstances where particularly unusual and onerous conditions may render a consumer ineligible to receive the goods or services offered”.
Panasonic Australia managing director Steve Rust said the company was pleased that the Federal Court had recognised that Panasonic’s contravention of the law was “accidental”. “Panasonic is always concerned about the interests of the consumer and many of the Court’s recommendations have already been implemented during the past 18 months,” he said.
Panasonic will appoint an internal compliance officer to develop a compliance policy, a complaints handling system and a training program for staff.
“Panasonic has run several successful redemption programs since the 2008 Wii promotion and we will work hard to ensure a similar situation does not arise in the future Rust said.