WARSAW, April 26 (Reuters) - Poland’s consumer watchdog fined Portuguese retail group Jeronimo Martins more than 60 million zlotys ($16 million) for labelling fruit and vegetables as grown in Poland when they were imported, it said on Monday.
The regulator UOKiK said consumers who made “patriotic” choices had been misled, at a time when the government has been encouraging Poles to buy Polish products to support the economy during the coronavirus crisis.
Jeronimo Martins, the owner of the Biedronka supermarket chain, said it would appeal the decision, saying it had “serious reservations” about the evidence gathered by the regulator.
UOKiK launched proceedings against the Portuguese owner of Biedronka in May, saying consumers had been misled by products such as Belgian carrots and Ukrainian cucumbers labelled as home grown.
“In Biedronka stores, consumers who wanted to buy Polish potatoes, tomatoes or apples were often misled,” UOKiK President Tomasz Chrostny said in a statement. “These violations were systemic and long-lasting.”
UOKiK said the trade inspectorate had found in late 2019, as well as in 2020 and in February 2021, that information on the country of origin of fruit and vegetables differed on signs in shops from those on the delivery packaging or documents.
In 27.8% of stores inspected inspectors found incorrectly labelled products, UOKiK said.
The Polish operations of Jeronimo Martins said it would appeal the decision. “The evidence in this case was not collected in an objective manner and its quality and completeness raise serious reservations,” it said.
$1 = 3.7617 zlotys Reporting by Alan Charlish and Anna Koper; Editing by Edmund Blair