Toyota Australia has agreed not to use the word ‘leather’ in advertising describing upholstery in any of its vehicles unless the component is entirely upholstered in real leather, following an investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
Toyota was forced to act after an ACCC investigation into the use of ‘leather’ claims in the promotion of certain Toyota vehicles found that from at least 2005 to 2009, Toyota Australia described the upholstery of certain vehicle interiors or components as ‘leather’, when the upholstery was actually only partially leather. The ACCC says the list of vehicles known to Toyota Australia to have been improperly promoted includes certain models within the Camry, Aurion, Prado and Kluger ranges.
The ACCC was further concerned that after 2009, several Toyota dealers misled consumers by representing vehicle interiors or components that were considered ‘leather accents’ or ‘leather accented’ as being entirely upholstered in leather, when at least some were not.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the commission was concerned that consumers were likely to have been misled by these claims.
“If consumers are prepared to pay a premium to have quality finishes for their car interiors, they are entitled to get what they paid for,” Sims said.
According to a release from the ACCC, “In giving an undertaking, Toyota Australia has admitted that it may have engaged in misleading conduct in breach of the Trade Practices Act 1974. Toyota Australia has also recognised the ACCC’s concerns about the claims made in Toyota marketing material, as well as by Toyota dealers.”
Toyota Australia’s undertaking not to use the word ‘leather’ (without the word ‘accents’ or ‘accented’) in advertising to describe the upholstery of any vehicle component, unless it is able to demonstrate that the component is entirely upholstered in leather, joins a further move to provide full details of the leather, partial leather and non-leather interior components of vehicle interiors when using the expressions ‘leather accent’ or ‘leather accented’ in its advertising.
The ACCC says Toyota will now publish corrective notices and implement a supplementary trade practices compliance program, training for Toyota Australia sales and marketing staff and dealers, and a procedure for the review of product information materials.
“Before making a claim about the composition of a product, businesses need to ensure that what they say does not risk misleading consumers. These practices affect consumers and competitors alike by creating an unfair advantage and will be taken very seriously by the ACCC,” Sims said.