24 February 2005
Tony’s Vineyard fined $3,000 for misleading and
out of date website representations
Waitakere based Tony’s Vineyard Restaurant has been fined $3,000 plus $260 court costs in the Waitakere District Court after pleading guilty to breaching the Fair Trading Act in relation to website promotion of its menu and prices.
Over a six month period, the restaurant’s website made various representations about the availability and price of certain meals on the menu. A Commission investigation revealed that many of the meals were not actually available for order at the restaurant, and others were not available at the listed price. In some circumstances, the website price varied between 17 and 36 percent cheaper than the in-house menu.
The Commission received a complaint from a customer of Tony’s Vineyard, who had notified both the restaurant and the Restaurant Association of New Zealand that the website menu was out of date and misleading. The Commission’s investigation revealed that while the restaurant owner was well aware of the misrepresentations, no steps were taken to stop the offending and customers continued to be misled.
“If a business chooses to promote and advertise its services on the internet, it should be aware of the need to maintain the accuracy or truth of those representations,” said Commission Chair Paula Rebstock.
“It is not enough to allow the restaurant owner to say that the website is outdated for reasons of lack of time or lack of technical knowledge, especially given the growth of this form of advertising and the potential reach of the misleading information.” “The internet is a growing form of advertising, not just for big businesses but also for small businesses. The misleading impression generated by website representations is very important because it is a gateway to encouraging customers to the restaurant,” added Ms Rebstock.
Judge Rota noted in sentence that Parliament had taken a strident view on misrepresentation and has accordingly indicated to the Court where an appropriate sentence may lie. His Honour agreed with the Commission that the breaches were not inadvertent.
“They may have become so by virtue of becoming out of date but once the disparity was brought to the attention of the restaurant owner by the complainant and then by the Restaurant Association, the restaurateur took no steps to correct the disparity,” said Judge Rota.