Trade Descriptions – Farmer Punished for Selling Bogus Free Range Eggs

Selling goods under a false description is a serious crime. In one case, a farmer who mislabelled ordinary barn eggs as free range received a 30-month prison sentence and a six-figure confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

The farmer had generated substantial profits by buying barn eggs at a price between 58p and 85p per dozen before labelling them as free range and selling them on for £1 per dozen. He was sentenced to imprisonment after being convicted of two counts of fraud. The confiscation order came to £505,381 and he was warned that he would serve a further five years in jail in default of payment.

Before the Court of Appeal, his lawyers argued that the amount of the confiscation was disproportionate. It should have been calculated on the basis of his profits – the difference between the price he had paid for the barn eggs and the price achieved for them after they were fraudulently mislabelled. It was submitted that his criminal benefit should have been assessed at £133,111.

In rejecting his appeal, however, the Court found that every penny that he received for the mislabelled eggs was properly made the subject of the confiscation order. To take account of the expense of purchasing the barn eggs would lend a measure of legitimacy to his fraudulent enterprise. Customers had paid a premium price for what they believed was a specific quality of eggs, laid by chickens living in identified conditions, and the goods they received were not what they had paid for.