A Tauranga kiwifruit pollen supplier has been warned for misleading customers into thinking they were buying New Zealand pollen when it came from Chile.
The Commerce Commission announced today it had warned Kiwi Pollen (NZ) Limited for allegedly breaching the Fair Trading Act, which prohibits false or misleading claims about the place of origin of goods.
In September and October 2010, Kiwi Pollen sold pollen imported from Chile, while at the same time making claims that gave its customers the impression that all of its kiwifruit pollen was sourced from New Zealand.
The Commission's general manager of competition, Kate Morrison, said although most of Kiwi Pollen's product was sourced from New Zealand during that time, Kiwi Pollen did not tell its customers when it was also selling them imported pollen.
"In fact Kiwi Pollen's website continued to give the impression that all of its pollen was collected from properties in New Zealand,'' she said.
The company also repackaged the imported pollen, attaching `Kiwi Pollen New Zealand' labels to the new packaging.
Ms Morrison said this reinforced the impression that the pollen was from New Zealand, particularly where there were no clear qualifications on its packaging, advertising material or website that some of its pollen was imported.
"Our investigation showed that kiwifruit growers consider the country of origin of pollen to be very important,'' she said.
"Those customers who were supplied imported pollen were not aware of the fact it was imported and were denied the opportunity or ability to make an informed decision about whether to purchase it in the first place.''
Ms Morrison said the Commission did not believe competitors or customers suffered any provable loss or harm as a result of Kiwi Pollen's conduct. She said the company's conduct happened in a short space of time, and it did not appear to be deliberate.
"For these reasons the Commission has decided to warn Kiwi Pollen rather than prosecute,'' she said.
During the investigation, the Commerce Commission looked into allegations that the imported pollen was a potential source of the Pseudomona syringe actinidiae (Psa) outbreak.
Ms Morrison said there was "no conclusive evidence" that showed the imported pollen sold by Kiwi Pollen caused the Psa outbreak in New Zealand.