Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Safety-washing claims for the 'already-safe'

Under the new Australian Consumer Law (aka the old Trade Practices Act), businesses including helmet manufacturers and promoters may not engage in conduct that is likely to mislead or deceive - nor may they make false or misleading representations about affiliation characteristics, standard, quality or benefits.

The test as to whether businesses are engaging in conduct that is likely to mislead or deceive is whether 'the astute and the gullible, the intelligent and the not so intelligent, the well-educated as well as the poorly educated, men and women of various ages pursuing a variety of vocations' would be misled.

In a nutshell, claims for products must be:

(1) accurate

(2) substantiated

(3) specific

...which means that any 'touted' benefits must be real, & not overstated. Furthermore, 'disclaimers' can never correct a false misleading main statement ever ever ever. Similarly forecasts or predictions' will be deemed to be misleading unless there are reasonable grounds for the claim.

Given the clearly stated 'trade practice' safeguards, it is arguable that the spin attached to helmet protection could mislead consumers into thinking that a bicycle helmet might offer complete cycling protection.

In light of all this, how did bicycle helmet promoters ever convince Australian politicians to go down the helmet-law pathway when the requisite substantiation was missing?

Surely it is only a matter of time before the ACCC will have to release a 'Safety Marketing Guide' to ensure businesses do not mislead their customers with the fanciful protection claims?


  1. Quite agree: "helmets" are no more than cheap polystyrene hats, offering limited protection and certainly no protection against motor vehicles (the main reason people wear them, other than laws). They can be bought from China at a cost of a few dollars each, and yet are sold at vastly inflated prices.

    It's about time this huge scam was ended.

  2. Yes it is, Fonant!!! - I find it utterly disheartening that most people are so easily hoodwinked by helmet spin - totally implausible that helmets could ever have offered the protection they were badged to do!!!!