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False claims up in flames as company pays penalty

13 February 2018

A Sydney based company and its director have entered into an enforceable undertaking with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), for alleged breaches of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).

Between 2 July 2015 and 20 January 2016, Peter Jones, director of Fire Combat Australia Pty Ltd (which previously traded as Modakboard), imported and sold fire-resistant magnesium oxide boards which were marketed as being Codemark certified to meet international safety standards.

Mr Jones obtained CodeMark certification in 2011, via an authorised independent certification company known as CertMark International. However, in 2015, CertMark International suspended, then cancelled the Modakboard CodeMark certification.

Mr Jones failed to remove all references to the Codemark certification of the building product from his website, and later made further misleading representations about the products his business sold.

Fire Combat Australia agreed to enter into an undertaking to demonstrate its commitment to its obligations under the ACL.

The enforceable undertaking will remain in force for three years and requires Fire Combat Australia to supply documentation to the OFT if requested at any time to substantiate any claims made regarding product certification.

A penalty of $12,960 has been paid by Fire Combat Australia.

Fair Trading Acting Executive Director Craig Turner said businesses must not take shortcuts and make inaccurate claims to consumers.

“Making misleading representations about a product, particularly ones which are supposed to offer protection from fire, is reckless,” Mr Turner said.

“Purchasers of building products should be able to rely on the representations being made by traders, as misleading representations about certification may potentially inhibit or delay the final approval of the building.”

Associations and consumers may report misleading representations to the OFT by lodging a complaint at www.qld.gov.au/fairtrading or by calling 13 QGOV (13 74 68).

An enforceable undertaking by the OFT is an alternative to court action where a breach of legislation is alleged. It is considered a legally binding agreement, which if broken can result in court action being commenced for breaking a term or condition of the undertaking, as well as seeking orders from the court to enforce the original undertaking.