Penguin Australia Pty Ltd (ACN: 162 605 745) has agreed to make a contribution of $30,000 into the Victorian Consumer Law Fund, following its publication of the book The Whole Pantry, as part of an undertaking accepted by the Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria.
The Whole Pantry, written by Belle Gibson, included statements that Ms Gibson had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer at the age of 20, and the diet and natural treatments she adopted had extended the duration and quality of her life. The book also claimed that part of its sales proceeds would be donated to charities and other organisations.
Penguin Australia acknowledged that these and other statements had not been substantiated by Ms Gibson prior to the publication of The Whole Pantry, despite the company’s request for her to do so.
Penguin Australia withdrew The Whole Pantry from sale in March 2015 after Ms Gibson again failed to substantiate the statements made in it, and compensated those consumers who had returned the book to it place of purchase.
The Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria considered that Penguin Australia, by publishing The Whole Pantry, engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and made false and misleading representations in breach of the Australian Consumer Law (Victoria).
As well as the $30,000 contribution, Penguin Australia has agreed to enhance and maintain its compliance, education and training program for staff, which it began in July 2015. The program includes a risk management checklist for books that make health claims, and statements about natural therapies in books must be accompanied by a prominent warning notice. The program must stay in operation for at least three years from the date of the undertaking.
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