Woolworths are being investigated by the National Consumer Commission (NCC) over complaints that the popular retailer may be falsely labelling Israeli products in its stores. The complaints are believed to have been lodged to both the NCC and Woolworths itself by everyday consumers, as well as shareholders in the company.
Woolworths is the subject of an on-going boycott by BDS SA over its refusal to severe trade ties with Israeli-based companies.
BDS SA national coordinator, Muhammed Desai expressed concern that Woolworths are intentionally practising mislabelling in a bid to mislead and defraud its customers, in turn drawing attention away from its stocking of Israeli products and the #BoycottWoolworths campaign.
Many of the concerns centre on the multi-labelling of products, without giving any clear indication as to where the product originates from.
“There was one bizarre instance listed by a complainant as to how there was an agricultural product said to have been either from Spain, Italy or Israel. It is absolutely unacceptable that a retailer can provide such a misleading and disingenuous label,” he said, adding that the fact that such information was being withheld from consumers suggested some form of political motivation.
Drawing the scenario of oranges imported from Tel Aviv, Desai said it was the obligation, as per international standards, for the supplier and retailer to inform the customer even if a single orange within a pocket came from an Israeli settlement in the occupied territories.
“This is how stringent and strict some of the international standards are regarding these settlement products. This is because the virtual majority of the international community, including the South African and U.S governments consider the settlements illegal, and in violation of international law,” he noted.
According to Desai, Woolworths were continuing to deflect attention away from questions around its products, suppliers and whether any products were coming from companies with activities in illegal Israeli settlements.
“They have refused to give answers, not only to activists or lobby groups like BDS SA, but to shareholders themselves.
They have simply refused to engage on this issue, trying to wish away it away and hoping it will disappear into thin air,” he said.
The NCC announced in a press statement on Thursday that it wished to extend the investigation beyond Woolworths, a move that has been welcomed by BDS SA. However the lobby group has stressed that Woolworths need be prioritised during the investigation. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)