Ecoworld NZ Ltd have been fined $60,000 in the Hamilton District Court today for misleading people about the benefits of a water "treatment" system that did nothing to change the water it treated.
The court also ordered compensation of $68,000 to be paid to consumers who purchased the product during the period under investigation (March 2000 - March 2003), and required more than $8,000 in costs to be paid to the Commerce Commission.
Ecoworld sold the "Grander Living Water Units" for between $1,500 and $12,000.
The units contain no mechanism or filter to treat water. Rather, in a sealed section they contain "living water," which the vendors say comes from glacial melts in Austria's Tyrolean mountains.
Ecoworld claimed that any water brought into contact or close proximity with this "living water" would gain special properties, ranging from an improved PH level to becoming hostile to pathogens.
Tests showed that there were no measurable differences between "treated" water that had passed through the system, and untreated water.
Judge Merilena Burnett said promotional material for the Living Water units "contained inconsistencies, quackery and pseudo-science."
Commerce Commission Director of Fair Trading Deborah Battell said the conviction warns companies they can't make false claims about the products they sell. Claims they do make must be supported by credible evidence.
"It can be easy to fool people using glossy brochures full of personal testimonials, graphs and highly selective quotes from test results." said Ms Battell.
"If companies can't back up their claims with solid proof, they shouldn't be trading on them."
There was also a warning here for consumers, said Ms Battell.
"Some of the claims made about "Living Water" were outlandish," she said. "Consumers need to be sceptical, ask questions, and consult their common sense when confronted with unusual-sounding claims."