Popular active wear Lorna Jane has been fined $5 million for claiming that its new clothing line could curb COVID-19 spread. The federal court which slammed the gym wear brand the fine with claimed that the brand’s attempt to sell its clothing line was “predatory and exploitative”. One should note that the company’s claims weren’t new and the company came up with the claims in July 2020 when the COVID-19 spread was at its peak in several countries in the world.
After the spread of COVID-19 wreaked havoc globally and was responsible for millions of deaths and several other millions being hospitalized, several companies jumped into capitalizing the tragedy.
While some air conditioning companies claimed that their products come with filters that would curb on virus’ and microbes’ spread, some hygiene product companies claimed that their products would kill off germs that would curb the spread.
However, one company crossed all the limits of the ordeal and claimed that its clothing line would curb the spread of the virus. The company we are referring to is popular active wear brand Lorna James. In July last year, the company came up with its clothing line and the claims associated with it.
What did the brand promise?
Amid the outbreak, the company introduced its ‘anti-virus’ activewear clothing line and claimed that the apparels were sprayed with the company’s preoperatory “LJ Shield” which saved people from deadly pathogens. Even the company’s advertisements on its website and stores used a tagline which said – “Cure for the Spread of COVID-19? Lorna Jane Thinks So”.
Australian Competition Regulator Calls Lorna Jane Out
In December 2020, the company faced proceedings against it by the Australian competition regulator. The competition regulator alleged that the company had false and misleading claims and alleged that the company’s co-founder Lorna Jane Clarkson was knowingly concerned in the conduct of the company.
What did the Court Say?
On Friday, the Federal Court in Australia decided that the brand wanted to “exploit the fear and concern” that was caused by the deadly outbreak of the disease. Justice Darryl Rangiah in his ruling said-
“The advertising campaign was conducted in July 2020, at a time of considerable uncertainty, fear and concern amongst the public about the consequences and spread of Covid-19.”
Lorna Jane’s Behaviour “Exploitative, Predatory, Dangerous”
He further said-
“Lorna Jane sought to exploit that fear and concern of the public through the use of misleading deceptive and untrue representations about the properties of LJ Shield activewear,”
and added that the company sought to profit from unlawful conduct
“The behaviour of Lorna Jane can only be described as exploitative, predatory and potentially dangerous,”
-he further added.
The Justice further said that the court will be imposing a penalty of a “substantial” nature so that it reflects the seriousness of the situation and will reflect the fact that “exploitative conduct of this kind will not pay”.
ACCC’s Chair – “Company falsely promoted activewear”
Rod Sims, chairperson of Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said that the penalty shows how serious the conduct of the brand was. He further said-
“Lorna Jane falsely promoted its LJ Shield activewear as eliminating or providing protection from COVID-19 amidst growing numbers of COVID-19 cases in Australia. The whole marketing campaign was based upon consumers’ desire for greater protection against the global pandemic.”
Lorna Jane Issues Apologies, Blames Suppliers
Meanwhile, after the ruling, the company apologized to its customers and blamed the suppliers for their erroneous claims. In its issued statement, Lorna Jane CEO, Bill Clarkson was quoted saying-
“A trusted supplier sold us a product that did not perform as promised. They led us to believe the technology behind LJ Shield was being sold elsewhere in Australia, the USA, China and Taiwan and that it was both anti-bacterial and anti-viral. We believed we were passing on a benefit to our customers.”