The Commission sent a timely reminder to all businesses that any ‘Made in New Zealand’ claims they make about their products must be accurate, able to be substantiated and must not mislead consumers about the country of origin.

Our message to businesses followed nine complaints received by the Commission about the accuracy of some t-shirt "Made in NZ" labelling by clothing brand, WORLD which we confirmed we will investigate earlier this month.

The Fair Trading Act (FTA) prohibits businesses from making false or misleading claims about the country of origin of their products. Symbols such as kiwis or the New Zealand flag can also convey a misleading impression about the origin of the product if, in fact, it is not manufactured or produced in New Zealand.

Commissioner Anna Rawlings says consumers will often be influenced by the origin of goods when they are considering whether to buy something and are likely to – and entitled to – rely on the information provided by the retailer about origin.

"Some consumers are happy to pay a higher price for goods which they believe are made in New Zealand, and for some this represents an important ethical decision. Country of origin claims are also important for local manufacturers that want to protect the value placed on a genuinely New Zealand made product."

Whether a product is 'made in New Zealand' depends on different factors, including the nature of the product and what consumers understand about it. These examples help explain how the meaning of 'made' can vary depending on the product:

  • For a clothing item, where is it changed from fabric into a garment?
  • For a food item, where were the ingredients grown?
  • For a manufactured product, was it substantially manufactured in NZ? Were any substantial stages of manufacture conducted offshore?

The Commission has taken a number of country of origin cases in recent years – for example, a health supplement company was fined more than $500,000 last year for claiming its bee pollen was New Zealand-made when it was actually sourced from China. In 2016 the High Court found 'New Zealand made' claims about two dietary supplements were misleading as all the active ingredients were imported from overseas.

Over the last 6 years the Commission prosecuted 11 companies and 11 individuals for selling imported alpaca rugs as "Made in New Zealand" and/or for claiming duvets were predominantly alpaca, merino wool or cashmere when they were not. In total fines of more than $1.5 million were imposed.

Ms Rawlings says any country of origin labelling by businesses must be clear and truthful.

"For example, if a manufacturing process includes steps taken within New Zealand and overseas, some brands choose to explain this with labelling such as 'Packaged in New Zealand using imported ingredients'. For clothing, an accurate claim might say 'Designed in NZ and manufactured in China'," she said.

The Commission has produced a video called If you can’t back it up, don’t say it which offers guidance to traders about being able to substantiate that their representations are true.