New Zealand Law Society - Owner misrepresented cladding as premium brand

Owner misrepresented cladding as premium brand

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A former director/owner of the now-defunct Christchurch Lightweight Concrete Ltd has been fined $151,875 for misrepresenting autoclaved aerated concrete cladding panels (AAC panels) as the Australian-made Hebel brand.

Darryl Campbell pleaded guilty to nine charges under the Fair Trading Act for his misrepresentations to Christchurch Lightweight staff and customers between July 2007 and June 2010. 

During this period Christchurch Lightweight claimed it was supplying the Hebel brand of exterior AAC panels for at least 83 properties, when in fact it supplied non-Hebel AAC panels from a Chinese manufacturer. 

In sentencing Mr Campbell at the Auckland District Court, Judge Gibson accepted the Commission’s submission that his conduct was deliberate. “He clearly knew the panels were not Hebel panels and he also knew, I am satisfied, of their reputation in the market.”

Commissioner Anna Rawlings has welcomed the sentence. “Consumers care about brand, quality, and reputation and they are often willing to pay a premium price to get what they want. It is particularly important that customers can take traders at their word in cases where it’s hard for them to verify claims about a product,” she says.

The Commission is unable to comment further on the case as three other defendants are still before the Courts.

The case is part of the Commission’s prosecution of four individuals associated with the former Cavan Forde Group (CFG) of companies. The case alleges the four misrepresented their AAC products as Hebel products between the period of July 2007 and June 2013. Auckland-based Chris Middleditch has pleaded guilty to the charges against him and is awaiting sentencing. The remaining two defendants, Dunedin-based father and son Cavan Forde and Martin Forde have entered not guilty pleas. All four men held ownership or management positions in the now-defunct companies that supplied AAC panels during the relevant period.

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