$310,000 for unsubstantiated claims is really a tap on the hand for Fujitsu when you consider the company has made more than $104 million in heat pump sales. Lets take it as a moral victory instead; one for the consumers.
For the first time, a company has been prosecuted by the Commerce Commission under a section of the Fair Trading Act for making unsubstantiated representations.
Fujitsu General New Zealand pleaded guilty to seven charges of breaches of the Fair Trading Act over ads that claimed the heat pumps were the most efficient in New Zealand.
The commission said the company made $104 million during the time it was advertising its heat pumps.
Wellington District Court judge Ian Mill said on Wednesday that consumers were given the impression they would have received the stated performance benefits at all times and in all conditions, and this was not correct.
He said testing was done under laboratory conditions and did not take into account real-world household variables, such as location.
He said the representations stated incorrectly what the real-world cost savings would be.
The judge said it was a case of exaggeration. “The dissemination of information was significant and significantly inaccurate.”
He said the claims the company made would have been a significant factor in whether to purchase.
“The heating of NZ homes is a major industry … It’s big business.”
Commission lawyer Paul Radich QC said Fujitsu had no basis for the claim that its heat pumps were the most efficient, and it could not be substantiated.
He said if people were going to the website they were doing so deliberately rather than just seeing an ad on television.
Fujitsu’s lawyer Justin Smith QC said the company had more energy rating stars than its competitors, and had conflated that with the efficiency of its product.
He said it was carelessness, rather than willfulness.