The days of advocating boycotts based on a company’s environmental practices could be numbered with proposed changes to consumer law gaining political support.
Groups such as GetUp! who promote boycotts based on a company’s alleged negative environmental practices could be prosecuted under consumer law, The Australian reports.
In practice, section 45D of the Competition and Consumer Act currently prevents trade boycotts. However, 45DA carries an exemption that says actions that are “substantially related to environmental or consumer protection” are ok.
Parliamentary secretary for agriculture Richard Colbeck told The Australian there will be a “complete review of the act” to “bring a level playing field back so that environment groups are required to comply with the same requirements as business and industry”.
A Greenpeace analysis of the act has found that if the exemption was removed the effected company or the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) could bring an injunction against the boycott, “non-punitive orders (community service or probation) or even damages”.
Aware of the tricky legal issues surrounding boycotts, a Greenpeace spokesperson told B&T the group avoids calling for boycotts and instead aims to provide consumers with information about a product.
Last year Greenpeace pushed its ‘#rejectjohnwest’ campaign which highlighted the brand’s fishing practices.
Simplot, the owner of the John West brand, was unable to comment on the news today.