QUEENSLAND building company Metricon Homes Queensland has been fined $800,000 for misleading advertising.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission brought the action against Metricon in the Federal Court in Brisbane.
The ACCC was concerned with a number of misrepresentations Metricon Qld made in its promotional material and on its website between January 2009 and August 2011.
For example, the ACCC was particularly concerned with some photographs in Metricon Queensland's brochures that included swimming pools and Bali huts adjacent to the house, features the company does not supply. Metricon Queensland did not make it clear that these features were not part of the package.
Justice Berna Collier described Metricon Queensland's conduct as "egregious" and observed the houses sold during the relevant period represented a substantial commitment to the consumers involved.
She found the contravening conduct involved participation by senior management of Metricon Queensland and observed that its competition and consumer compliance programs in place at the time failed to prevent the contravening conduct.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the decision should serve as a warning to home building companies.
"Photographs and glossy brochures that promote products should be of what the consumer will be supplied at the advertised price, not an upgraded package that would ultimately cost the consumer much more," Mr Sims said.
"If companies run promotions or advertise savings then those savings must be real, not a lure to attract customers to their products over competitors who might be doing the right thing," Mr Sims said.
"This is also another reminder to traders that fine print is not an antidote to misleading headline representations."
Metricon was also ordered to pay $50,000 towards the ACCC's legal costs.