Art scam: company swamps market with Aboriginal products made in Indo

Boomerangs, didgeridoos and message stones featuring Aboriginal-style designs, but made in Indonesia have landed an Australian souvenir wholesaler in court.

A Federal Court judge this month found Birubi Art Pty Ltd to have made false or misleading representations that products it sold were made in Australia and hand painted by Aboriginal peoples, in breach of Australian Consumer Law.

Federal Court judge Melissa Perry is yet to rule on penalties.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which took Birubi to court, said from July 2015 to November 2017 the company sold more than 18,000 boomerangs, bullroarers, didgeridoos and message stones to retail outlets around Australia.

Although the products featured designs associated with Australian Aboriginal art and words such as ‘Aboriginal Art’, ‘genuine’, and ‘Australia’, they were made in Indonesia, the ACCC said.

“It was unacceptable that Birubi sold Indonesian-made products as having being hand painted by Australian Aboriginal persons when that was not the case,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said in a statement.

“The artwork, images and statements used by Birubi suggested a relationship between Australian Aboriginal people and the production of the products which did not exist.”

“The ACCC is particularly concerned about any conduct that has the potential to undermine the integrity and value of genuine Indigenous Australian art, and consequently, the impact that could have on Indigenous Australian artists.”

“The ACCC will not hesitate to take further action against traders who mislead consumers about the nature of their products, in order to ensure confidence in the Indigenous Australian art industry.”

Birubi Art Pty Ltd operates as a wholesaler of approximately 1300 product lines to about 152 retail outlets across Australia, court documents show.

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