Big W is a trading division of Woolworths comprising of 159 Big W discount department stores throughout Australia. Big W stores sell a range of general merchandise products, including children’s nightwear products.
In or around September 2009 and in November 2009, the ACCC conducted routine surveys on children’s nightwear products sold in retail outlets, including Big W stores. Testing commissioned by the ACCC as part of these surveys indicated that three children’s nightwear products sold in Big W stores were incorrectly labelled as “low fire danger”. Under the mandatory standard for the labelling of children’s nightwear, these products should have been labelled “warning high fire danger keep away from fire”. The products had been supplied to Big W by Vinetex & Co Pty Ltd.
Woolworths acknowledges that by offering these products for retail sale in circumstances where the garments carried the incorrect fire warning label it was likely to have contravened sections 52, 53(a), 53(c) and 65C of the Trade Practices Act.
When contacted by the ACCC Woolworths undertook corrective action by conducting a voluntary recall of 27 lines of garments on 26 September 2009 and an additional 8 lines on 7 October 2009. Big W also issued a public apology notice on 12 December 2009. Further Big W commissioned a review by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to determine why the labelling error on the garments occurred and the adequacy of its buying and quality assurance and control procedures. PwC made a number of recommendations and in response Big W developed an Action Plan as set out in Annexure 1 to the undertaking.
Woolworths has provided an undertaking to the ACCC that it will refrain from supplying children’s nightwear products that do not comply with the Standard; it will implement the Action Plan, it will conduct a review of its recall procedures and it will develop and implement a training program for its buying and quality assurance staff for the purpose of ensuring compliance with the standard.
Further Woolworths will fund, in the sum of $200,000 a research project into the standard and make a $200,000 donation to the Sydney’s Children’s Hospital.