Popular eyewear brand Oscar Wylee is being hauled to court by the competition watchdog for allegedly making false or misleading claims about its charitable donations in breach of the law.
The optometry and eyewear retailer started in 2012, has an online store and has 52 physical stores across Australia.
For at least four years between January 2014 and December 2018, Oscar Wylee stated on its website, social media, emails and in stores that every time a customer bought a pair of glasses another pair of glasses would be donated to someone in need, the ACCC stated on its website.
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Oscar Wylee made statements such as: ‘For every pair purchased, a pair is donated to someone in need’ and ‘Buying a pair today? As soon as you do, we’ll donate a pair to someone in need’.
However, the competition watchdog will argue that this was not the case, and that the glasses brand only donated 3,000 period across that period even though it sold more than 320,000 pairs of glasses in that time.
On top of that, the ACCC is claiming that Oscar Wylee said it had ‘partnered’ with Rose Charities to build sustainable eye care programs in Cambodia and fund one individual’s study to become an eye surgeon – but that the brand only made a one-off $2,000 donation and donated just 100 frames in early 2014.
Though Oscar Wylee claimed for nearly five years afterwards that it had partnered with Rose Charities, no other donations or support were provided after February 2014.
ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said the brand’s false or misleading claims “exploited consumers’ desire to support charitable causes”.
“We allege Oscar Wylee donated less than 1 per cent of the glasses it said it would,” she said.
“We are concerned that consumers may have chosen Oscar Wylee over other eyewear companies because they believed their purchase would result in Oscar Wylee providing glasses to people in need and supporting a sustainable eye care program in Cambodia.
“Businesses must ensure that if they make claims about their charitable donations, affiliations or partnerships, they are true and can be substantiated.
The brand is popular among younger consumers, and utilise images of customers wearing the products as part of their marketing strategy.
Social media influencer Lily May Mac was a brand ambassador for Oscar Wylee for a time, and featured in billboard advertisements across Sydney.
Did you guys know my eyesight is terrible 😵 I literally can’t see much without glasses or contacts. These specs are from #oscarwylee in the Kato frames. 🤓 Are you short or long sighted or blessed with great vision? 👓✨ pic.twitter.com/OvDXOEam1p— lilymaymac✨ (@liIyhatesyou) May 3, 2018
Oscar Wylee ‘vigorously defends’, ‘utterly rejects’ ACCC’s allegations
In a statement provided to Yahoo Finance, the eyewear brand said it will “vigorously defend the legal action launched today by the ACCC”.
“We utterly reject the allegations made by the ACCC, which do not reflect the range and scale of the community and charitable contributions made by Oscar Wylee,” the statement said.
“Since its founding in 2012, Oscar Wylee has proudly undertaken a range of programs in line with an ongoing commitment to corporate social responsibility.”
Contrary to ACCC’s claims, the brand said it had donated more than 350,000 frames to charity organisations including Sight for All. “Monetary donations in that period total $130,865,” it added.
“We take our corporate and social responsibility seriously and have always acted with good intentions.”
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