Important lessons in Landmark court case

At the end of last year there were a number of news reports about the claim brought by one by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission against Landmark (trading as Seednet) in the Federal Court.

The ACCC issued the proceedings based on actions taken by Landmark between September 2014 and December 2016. The ACCC alleged that during this time, Landmark made inaccurate representations about Compass barley's resistance to leaf rust and straw strength in a fact sheed it produced.

Despite knowing the assertions were incorrect, Landmark failed to correct the statements. Among other findings, Landmark's conduct was found by the court to be misleading and deceptive or likely to mislead or deceive. As a result of Landmark's breaches, the court imposed sanctions, including a fine of $1 million. 

While the case has received a reasonable amount of publicity, the legislation that formed the legal basis for the claim, the Australian Consumer Law, has not been widely discussed.

The ACL is in Schedule 2 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. It provides persons who engage with another person in trade or commerce with a number of statutory protections and sets out penalties for contraventions of those protections.

There are many instances when farmers are engaging with someone in trade and commerce, such as when they purchase farm equipment or seeds for sowing. Although these proceedings were initiated by the ACCC, producers and consumers generally are able to commence civil proceedings in respect of alleged breaches of the ACL - for example, for damages suffered as a result of reliance on a misleading representation.

Consequently, it is useful for everyone to have an understanding of their rights and obligations under the ACL when engaging in trade or commerce. 

If you are ever unsure of your rights or obligations, you should always obtain indpendent legal advice. 

This article was written by Anthony Kelly and was published in The Stock Journal on Thursday 11 April 2019. 

Practice Area: Farm Law

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