Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria v Gibson  FCA 240 saw the court called upon to consider alleged contraventions of ss 18, 21, 29 of the Australian Consumer Law. The
This proceeding concerns alleged conduct of the first respondent, Ms Annabelle Natalie Gibson, in relation to her claims of being diagnosed with brain cancer. The Director alleges that, in the course of developing and promoting a smart phone application and a book, Ms Gibson falsely claimed to have been diagnosed with brain cancer, and claimed to have rejected conventional cancer treatments in favour of embarking on a quest to heal herself naturally. Ms Gibson promoted herself and the claims which are the subject of this proceeding both under her own name and under a business name, “The Whole Pantry”. It is also alleged that, while she claimed that part of the proceeds of sales of the application and the book would be donated to charities, many or most of these donations were not made.
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In the course of developing and promoting the apps and her book, Ms Gibson made a number of statements about being diagnosed with brain cancer in 2009, about eschewing conventional treatments, and pursuing natural remedies to treat her brain cancer. These statements were made on her Facebook and Instagram accounts, during media interviews, as well as in her book and in the apps themselves.
Some but not all complaints were made out. The court held at  that three representations constituted misleading or deceptive conduct, in trade and commerce, contrary to s 18 of the ACL and the ACL (Vic).
The Court will give directions concerning the hearing and determination of relief by way of penalties in due course.
With thanks to Justine Anderson for noting this decision.