Masterton Poultry Farm fined $10,000 for breaching Fair Trading Act - eggs not free-range
Willem Klaas Stolte, owner/operator of Masterton Poultry Farm, was fined $10,000 in the Masterton District Court
yesterday after pleading guilty to breaching the Fair Trading Act in relation to the sale of free-range eggs sold under
the Hen House brand.
A Commerce Commission investigation revealed that Stolte was selling barn eggs as free-range over a period of seven
months in 2001. During that period over 17,000 dozen more free-range eggs were sold than were actually produced.
Commerce Commission Director of Fair Trading Deborah Battell said that passing off barn eggs as free-range was unfair on
both consumers and genuine producers of free-range eggs.
“Stolte was charging a 28.5% premium for free-range eggs – a premium people would have paid in good faith because of
views about the quality of the eggs and animal welfare. There is practically no opportunity for consumers to verify
whether eggs are produced in free-range conditions, so they were entirely reliant on Masterton Poultry Farm’s claims.
“This behaviour not only puts at risk the reputation of the industry – especially those other producers selling their
eggs under the Hen House brand – but is unfair on genuine producers of free-range eggs who have extra costs involved in
maintaining free-range flocks,” Ms Battell added.
In sentencing, Judge Ellis endorsed counsel’s submission that the shortfall between the number of free-range eggs
produced and actually sold largely represents misleading transactions to the public.