CHOICE membership

All products sold online should declare country of origin/manufacture

Hi everyone,

When you purchase a product in person, you can check to see it’s country of origin/manufacture if you want to. Yet when you shop online, you can almost never find this information.

Combine this with the fact that more and more consumers are purchasing online. And world events such as the COVID-19 pandemic are forcing this trend to accelerate. And it seems to me that consumers are actually being cheated of the ability to choose (or decline) products based on country of origin/manufacture, by being forced to purchase them via often poorly described online listings.

With laws that mandate labels on products in Australia, why have online sales been allowed to bypass these laws for so long?

For human rights and ethical reasons, there are some countries in the world whose products I now refuse to buy. When buying online, I am forced to search the open web for hints or clues as to their origin. The only way is to search for the words “made in” (in quotes), separate to some keywords of the product. But this is highly unreliable.

Am I alone in feeling that consumers are gradually losing the economic power they have to choose products based on country of origin/manufacture?

I believe this needs to change.

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I agree. I too do not like to purchase goods from some countries if they can be made locally or by a close trading nation.

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I would be interested in seeing some examples of things you have looked at that don’t show country of origin. Are they all Australian sites, or are you looking at overseas sites too?

Unfortunately, in Australia the major focus and emphasis has been on bricks and mortar sales, not on-line. It is only in the recent past that with Gerry Harvey’s intervention the GST was introduced on ALL on-line sales from overseas. Perhaps now after the COVID shortages, and our almost complete reliance on imported products, that there will be a recognition of how important country of origin actually is. Maybe then, country of origin labeling may be looked at seriously.

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Great pickup…

I have noticed that the major supermarkets have country of origin for food products they retail…here are two examples of random products:


https://shop.coles.com.au/a/richmond-south/product/angas-park-apricots-diced-dried

however, when looks at non-food products (applicances, tech, furniture etc) they rarely list the country where the product is manufactured… here are some examples from the top of my head (and the first ones I looked at didn’t disclose the information):



https://www.chemistwarehouse.com.au/buy/65066/mayne-aspirin-100mg-112-tablets

As more and more Australians are doing some shopping online and are unable to see full labelling on the packaging, I agree that possibly any product sold in Australia should have country of origin/manufacture on the website selling the products.

This is something that Choice (@BrendanMays, @jhook) may be willing to pursue as a campaign to ensure that consumers are informed when purchasing online…to ensure they have the same information available to them when making decisions as that which would occur in a bricks and mortar store.

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Thanks for these examples (& making the effort!!). I agree that ‘Country of origin’ should be shown on all online products - IMO, is worthy of another CHOICE campaign…

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While we may greatly desire this as consumers there are practical problems. How do you enforce such a thing on overseas websites and how do you ensure all those imports accord? Stopping parcels, opening them and inspecting each one for correct labels at the border seems costly to me.

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Thanks for the replies everyone. I’m really heartened to hear the agreement.

What I tend to find is that when retailers think it’s to their advantage, they might mention the country of origin/manufacture. For example, “Made in Germany” or “Made in Australia”. But most of the time they don’t do it at all.

On the question of overseas websites - those would not be subject to the rule. But I think that’s OK.

There is a distinct advantage in Australia toward shopping with local retailers anyway (i.e. we are an island, with huge international postage costs).

So this idea is simply about realigning Australian retailer website standards with existing Australian retailer standards. I think if Australia mandated that Australian online listings were required to clearly state the country of origin/manufacture (just as products themselves do) - that would be a win for local consumers.

It would also potentially be a win for Australian manufacturers. And perhaps manufacturers from other ethical countries. To highlight which products are from less desirable countries, is to potentially steer consumers away from them. And toward better companies. At least to some degree.

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Can we assume you are referring to online retailers who are Australian owned and registered businesses with Australian assets and who pay Australian taxes?

There are numerous overseas based suppliers who have an Australia mail box and office window, and supply direct to the consumer from an OS warehouse.

There is more to online purchasing than simply country of origin of manufacture.

Is it also worth considering how some of these importers are structured for tax purposes?

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Yes, I think that is what is being discussed and also where I expressed agreement. Agree that we can’t compel foreign owned and operated websites to meet Australian law, but those registered as a business in Australia (and for tax purposes), can be compelled.

There are also many products which can’t usually be bought and imported from a foreign website (thinking of big appliances, beds, furniture and such like). These are very much sourced from Australian retailers and make a significant proportion of a household’s big purchase expenditures.

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Totally agree. I also like to make informed choices when shopping.

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I asked an online company by their email enquiry form where their products are made. They replied but I agree we should not have to ask.

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I dont buy online and only Australian or 90% australian products. However, I believe that labelling before it can be brought into the country be labelled adequately.

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I agree. Many laws, including those related to county of origin, have not been changed to take account of the growth of online shopping. Other examples include: weights and measures, ingredients, allergens, health warnings, % alcohol content, and number of standard drinks…
The need for this to change is gradually being recognized here and elsewhere. But progress is slow and it needs to be pushed along.
However, re country of origin, it also needs to be remembered that in Australia providing the country of origin many not be mandatory for some products. The ACCC website says:
The ACL doesn’t require non-food products to carry country of origin labelling, although other laws may do so.

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Or when they do - they say things like “made in Australia from local and imported ingredients” - still never saying what is imported, or where from

Or printing the whole lot in tiny letters that I can’t even read with my extremely expensive Zeiss lens spectacles.

Or in black print, on a transparent wrapping, with a dark background inside the wrapper, behind the lettering, making the idea of reading the notice utter nonsense.

But “disclosure”? Good heavens, what are you - a blood Communist or something?

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I can usually tell if it is not an Australian or English speaking country of origin because of spelling and grammatical errors used in their promotional material. Also go to the very end of the site to see if there is an address there.

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Not all food has the place where it comes from. i have been trying to buy Australian bacon. Most say made of 5% or 21% Australian products but does not tell you where the rest is from. The smoked bacon is the only one made in Australia. It doesn’t matter whether you buy at the supermarket deli or the packaged ones all the same.
On another totally different product, i ordered disposable masks online at the start of the first covid outbreak from an Australian ( I thought) website. They eventually came when it was over, (from China), no markings, no stamps so I don’t even know if they are fake or not. Often you only know who it is really from when you get the company on your credit card.

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I think it also pays to read between the lines carefully. The answer for food products is usually there somewhere. And hopefully who the real manufacturer or producer may be.

Some traps I’ve noted.

  • Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients. If they are Greek Kalamata olives reassurance would be they are from Greece, but not always. Otherwise I assume the business/country of origin when silent is not an economy worthy of customer loyalty.
  • Brand ‘XYZ’ an Australian Company accompanied by a clear Aussie flag or similar logo. Really just the opportunistic wholesale supplier of a substantially or wholly imported product. If the product is substantially Australian no need to say anymore about the manufacturer? Dick Smith started with good intent. Now others think it is OK to imitate the image simply because the importer, possibly also repackaging, is Australian registered. This does not preclude foreign ownership or equity.
  • Insert ‘Aussie Placename’ branded product. Cunningly this can have little to do with the source of the product or location of the company owning the brand. ‘Mooloo Mountain Milk’ is one such example. It’s a trade mark used by Parmalat, and is/was also a company trading as a Milk producer at Hervey Bay Qld. Mooloo Mountain and the last remnants of the dairy farms nearby are more than 100km distant by road. And much further from any Parmalat facility. Geographically, Mooloo is south-west of Gympie and very close to the Cooloola Milk producer. And not that much further from Kenilworth. Locals will know what this is saying.

I’m politely suggesting that the country of origin of imported product is for us a much less significant concern than the misrepresentations we face everyday with Australian brand labelling and products. Fix one, hopefully we can fix all.

P.S.
Our pork, bacon etc comes from a local butcher. Piggery details established, the bacon is cured on premises.

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We have been buying rural and Aussie country for almost a year now for absolutely everything we can, via the website “One Day Closer To Rain (rural crafts)” which means makeup, clothing, food products, soaps, paintings, accessories, brooms, wood furniture, toys … ALL things have to be Australian made and only by people in the country. Many are on farms.The other site we use a lot is “Buy From A Bush Business” - but here imported goods are sometimes sold in country shops because none are made in Australia. I now specifically check for all items I need (eg currently bed sheets) and so Googled “Australian made bed sheets”. By doing this research I have found ONE Vic country place making sheets, pillows etc which explains carefully where everything comes from and why. It is worth a short research! I hope this helps while we work out this labelling situation. Both sites have over 250,000 members so there are plenty of Aussies who want to support Australian made - especially if it is in the bush areas.

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Thoroughly agree! There is an app called “Good on You” which lists ethical clothing and definitely tells you where they are made.

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Schultes Bacon is made here but is near Brisbane https://schultes.com.au/

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