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Nissan & ad agent fined for misleading ads

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In the Federal Court, Adelaide, today, Justice Von Doussa imposed convictions and fines totalling $130,000 on automotive Importer and distributor, Nissan Motor Co. (Australia) Pty Ltd, This follows Nissan pleading guilty on 27 July to three counts of misrepresenting the model and price of its Patrol RX Turbo Diesel.

Adelaide advertising agent Thomas Mark Wightman, who had pleaded guilty to having aided and abetted Nissan In some of the conduct, was convicted and fined $10,000.

The prosecutions against Nissan and Wightman were launched by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in December 1997.

The misrepresentations were made in newspaper and television advertising In late 1996 and took several forms.

In commenting on his decision, Justice Von Doussa said:

"The ACCC accepts that the mistakes which occurred In the advertisements were not deliberate, and that Nissan and Wightman did not intend to mislead or deceive."

However, he continued that:

"An effective compliance program should have included checks which picked up negligent errors and oversights. The shortcomings in the compliance program operating at the time of these offences contributed to the happening of each offence."

Justice Von Doussa also noted "..the absence of a foolproof compliance program had added significance" In this case because Nissan had been convicted in 1979 on misleading advertising charges brought under the Trade Practices Act 1974. "Nissan therefore had direct experience of the need for a comprehensive compliance program."

Nissan earlier gave the ACCC enforceable undertakings which included offering compensation to consumers totalling $34,000.

Justice Von Doussa adjourned the question of costs until 3 September.

Further Information Ms Lin Enright, Director, Public Relations (02) 6243 1108 (w) or (0414) 613 520 MR 164/98 28 August 1998