Deceptive claims by charity clothing collector alleged (E’Co Australia)
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Legal action has begun against a clothing collection company which had invited donations of unwanted clothing which it suggested go towards alleviating child poverty in Africa and to supporting breast cancer victims in WA.
The Commissioner for Consumer Protection has lodged a writ in the Supreme Court alleging that E’Co Australia Pty Ltd and its director Mr Mark Brian Keay had engaged in misleading conduct and unfair trade practices.
The Commissioner alleges that the company, which operates 300 clothing bins in 207 locations in the Perth metropolitan area, and Mr Keay misled the public with images and wording on the bins suggesting that the proceeds will go towards a charitable purpose. The writ alleges that the clothing was sold to second-hand clothing merchants in Africa and the company retained the profits. E’Co Australia Pty Ltd is neither a registered charity nor a not-for-profit organisation.
The writ claims that the E’Co Australia bins were placed in prominent public areas such as shopping centre car parks next to bins operated by registered charities Good Sammy, Paraquad Industries and the Salvation Army. Some bins had images of a poor African child with the caption “sending your old clothes, shoes and Manchester to Africa” and the logo “E’Co Kids – a not for profit organisation”. Other bins displayed the logo of either the ‘Breast Cancer Care WA’ or ‘Breast Cancer Foundation of WA’ and the text “help support people with breast cancer”.
The writ states that the company had a fund raising agreement with Breast Cancer Care between 2009 and June 2011 in which the charity would receive a fixed sum, irrespective of the volume of clothing collected.
On 4 November 2011, E’Co Australia and Mr Keay signed an enforceable undertaking that stickers would be placed on the bins warning consumers that the operator was a commercial enterprise and that any items deposited may be sold for profit which would be retained by the operator.
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(Consumer Protection is a division of the Department of Commerce)
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