16 Dec, 2015
Report: One in Six Vendors Makes False Product Quality Claims
By Soap Blogger
There’s a rather worrying and indeed fast-growing trend up and down the United Kingdom involving various retailers, outlets and product manufacturers making false claims about the products and items they are selling. Here in Great Britain, we as a nation are extremely conscious and proactive when it comes to the decisions we make with regard to the products we purchase, the foods we eat, the skincare products we trust and so on. As such, being able to label something as genuinely ‘handmade’ or ‘homemade’ or ‘organic’ represents a real badge of honour the likes of which can influence not only consumer interest in general, but how much any consumer is willing to pay for any specific product.
Suffice to say therefore, food standards officials were horrified to find upon carrying out a recent investigation that around one in every six retailers and outlets may in fact be misleading customers in order to charge higher prices. The investigation was carried out by members of Suffolk Council’s trading standards department, who discovered that the problem with deliberately deceiving the public as a means by which to exploit higher standards and expectations was considerably rifer than they could have expected.
During the investigation, the team came across restaurants selling ‘home made’ products which had in fact been purchased wholesale from larger national companies. Others were found to be advertising ‘fresh’ and ‘handmade’ products which were in fact frozen and mass-produced. And unsurprisingly, a rather alarming number of retailers and outlets were found to be exaggerating the quality and indeed the origins of the ingredients they used as a means by which to enhance the appeal of their products and in many instances charge higher prices.
One of the most commonly-encountered deceptive tactics of all was that of labelling products or ingredients as organic when they were in fact nothing of the sort. Those caught red-handed violating fair trade regulations were issued with initial warnings to cease all such activities immediately, or face the prospect of a £5,000 fine or up to six months in prison should practices be found to have continued regardless.
Speaking on behalf of the Soil Association, deputy director Roger Mortlock spoke of his shock that the British public is being deliberately misled on such a large scale.
"Consumers buying organic food off the shelf in shops and supermarkets can now be reasonably sure that it is fairly labelled, but restaurants and pubs are the places where we see many of the real abuses of public trust,” he said.
"In many cases, food is described as being fresh when in fact it has just been heated up in a microwave in the pub kitchen. If they are also claiming that food is organic when it's not then that is shocking, because the public should be able to trust the food that they are ordering."
It’s a problem that affects the health and beauty industry in a rather unfortunate way too, as now more than ever there are so many brands capitalising on the ‘organic’ badge despite having no real right to do so. In our industry, one of the biggest problems is the way in which misleading marketing can be not only incredibly effective, but technically speaking used in a manner that does not break any specific laws. The promise of ‘Nature’s Best Ingredients’ or ‘Organic Extracts’ may sound all well and good, but in many instances the fact that at least 99% of the products remain synthetic means buyers are getting considerably less than they bargained for.
Which once again harks back to the advice of the Soil Association and other leading consumer watchdogs in the UK – take nothing for granted, read labels and ask questions to ensure that what you receive is in fact what you handed your money over for in the first place.