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Case study 8: Australian Aboriginal Art Pty Ltd (AAA)

This was another case where souvenirs were being represented as Aboriginal artwork.

The ACCC argued that AAA and two former directors (Henry de Jonge and Bruce Reed) allegedly engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct in representations about the authenticity of the Aboriginal-style souvenirs AAA manufactured and distributed to retailers in Australia and advertised on the internet.

The alleged conduct was that the company placed stickers on their products declaring they were ‘Australian Aboriginal Art’, ‘Aboriginal Art’ and/or ‘Authentic, made by Aboriginal artists or artists of Aboriginal descent’.

Section 52 of the Trade Practices Act states that it is unlawful for a corporation to engage in conduct, in trade or commerce that is misleading or deceptive or likely to mislead or deceive. This includes statements made to consumers. A corporation can be found to have misled consumers unintentionally or unknowingly. Consumers are entitled to receive goods that match their description. In this case, the consumer is entitled to receive goods that are ‘Australian Aboriginal art’, ‘Aboriginal art’, and/or ‘Authentic, made by Aboriginal artists or artists of Aboriginal descent’.

It was found that AAA did not employ Aboriginal artists or artists of Aboriginal descent. The ACCC claimed that the directors had knowledge of the alleged misrepresentations made by AAA. De Jonge was the former director and Read the former general manager of Australian Icon Products. According to the ACCC, when AIP went into liquidation its assets were transferred to AAA.

The matter did not proceed to trial.

Discussion point

  • Why do you think O’Loughlin, AAA and AIP traded on the reputation of Indigenous artists and artwork?
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Case study 8: Australian Aboriginal Art Pty Ltd (AAA)