A company that pretended to be a not-for-profit organisation sending clothing to poor children in Africa has agreed to donate $100,000 to charity after admitting it “may have” misled the public.
As part of the settled Supreme Court legal action taken by the Commissioner for Consumer Protection, E’Co Australia Pty Ltd and its managing director Mark Brian Keay have also agreed to issue a public apology in a prominent newspaper advertisement.
Between January and November 2011, the company had placed 300 clothing collection bins – displaying text and images that may have given the impression the donations would ultimately be given to poor children in Africa – at 205 prominent locations around the Perth area.
Text also may have given the impression the operator was a charity.
“Sending your old clothes, shoes and manchester to Africa!” and “A not-for-profit organisation saving tomorrow’s environment today”, the signage on the bins read.
The bins were often alongside the collection bins of genuine registered charities.
E’Co Australia was in fact a commercial enterprise that sold the clothing to second-hand merchants in Africa for a profit and retained the proceeds.
The company and Mr Keay have admitted that the conduct may have breached Australian Consumer Law by making false and misleading representations.
“Whether the donations are in the form of money or clothing, the public has the right to know whether the collection bin is part of a business or a charity,” Commissioner for Consumer Protection Anne Driscoll said.
“Anyone engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct to take advantage of the generosity and goodwill of the community for commercial gain, will risk legal action and potential damage to their reputations.”
The $100,000 will be donated to appropriate charities at the Commissioner’s discretion.