An eyewear company has been fined $3.5 million by an Australian court after falsely suggesting it was donating glasses to Cambodians “in need” for every pair it sold, according to Australia’s competition and consumer commission.
Oscar Wylee’s marketing videos showed scenes of poverty in Cambodia and included slogans such as “For every pair purchased, a pair is donated to someone in need,” the commission said in a statement.
The company claimed to have partnered with international anti-poverty network Rose Charities and used images of the Rose Eye Clinic in Phnom Penh, the statement said.
However, despite selling 328,010 pairs of glasses during the campaign period of January 2014 to December 2018, Oscar Wylee gave only one donation of $2,000 and 100 frames to Rose Charities in 2014, it said.
In total, it donated 3,181 frames to charity, or about one set of frames for every 100 pairs of glasses sold, it said.
“Oscar Wylee has taken advantage of the charitable nature and goodwill of consumers and its behaviour risks diminishing consumer confidence to support other businesses that genuinely engage in philanthropic activities,” said the commission’s deputy chair, Delia Rickard, in the statement.
Hang Vra, director of Rose Eye Clinic, told VOD on Monday that the clinic never received any money from the deal, and the single shipment from Oscar Wylee was of “very, very old frames — no glass.”
“We didn’t use them because they were old,” Vra said of the 100 frames. “It was only one time. After that, we never had contact.”
Vra added that the clinic had become a private business at the end of 2018. Rose Charities Canada had previously provided a monthly stipend, while Rose Charities New Zealand had donated second-hand equipment, he said.
In a statement to news.com.au, Oscar Wylee said it “acknowledges the importance of the issues raised” and “sincerely regrets the contraventions” of Australian consumer law.
“Oscar Wylee has taken corrective action in response to the court action and in line with our ongoing commitment to corporate social responsibility,” it said.
Rose Charities New Zealand chairperson Trish Gribben told VOD that the group had “no idea why Oscar Wylee failed to deliver on their advertised promise to donate glasses to Cambodia.”
“We have never had any close contact with the company,” Gribben said. She added that Rose Eye Clinic no longer needed support from Rose Charities. “The clinic is self-sufficient — an outstanding success story.”
Rose Charities International has organizations in eight countries and programs operating in 18, according to its website. Rose Eye Clinic treats about 50 patients a day and performs much-needed cataract surgery, another Rose Charities site says.