A restaurant in New Zealand has been fined $NZ3000 for advertising out of date prices and dishes on its website. Could there be a better reason for attending Saturday’s “Creating Effective Web Sites” Weekend Crash Course?

The owner of Tony’s Vineyard Restaurant in Henderson, Waitakere, pleaded guilty to breaching the Fair Trading Act in relation to misleading availability and menu prices over a six-month period.

In Waitakere District Court, the restaurant was also ordered to pay $NZ260 court costs.

A Commerce Commission investigation had revealed that many of the meals advertised on the website were not actually available for order at the restaurant, and others were not available at the listed price.

In some circumstances, the website price varied between 17 and 36 per cent cheaper than the actual in-house menu.

The commission received a complaint from a customer of Tony’s Vineyard Restaurant, who had notified both the restaurant and the Restaurant Association of New Zealand that the website menu was out of date and misleading.

While the restaurant owner was well aware of the misrepresentations, no steps were taken to stop the offending and customers continued to be misled, Commerce Commission chairwoman Paula Rebstock said in a statement today.

If a business chose to promote and advertise its services on the internet, it should be aware of the need to maintain accuracy and truth, she said.

“It is not enough to allow the restaurant owner to say that the website is outdated for reasons of lack of time or lack of technical knowledge, especially given the growth of this form of advertising and the potential reach of the misleading information.”

The internet was a growing form of advertising, not just for big businesses but also for small businesses, she said.

Judge James Rota noted in sentencing that Parliament had taken a strident view on misrepresentation and had accordingly indicated to the court where an appropriate sentence may lie.

The judge agreed with the commission that the breaches were not inadvertent.

The Restaurant Association of New Zealand said today the fine was a timely reminder for all members to update website information.

“We will include a warning in our next newsletter,” association advisor Neville Waldren said.

The association had written to Tony’s Vineyard Restaurant on a number of occasions after the complaint, but was not responsible for the running of the website, Mr Waldren said.

He could not recall any similar cases.

More here.