$85k fine for cladding deception

A Dunedin businessman has been fined $85,000 for trying to pass Chinese-made concrete cladding off as high-quality Australian-made material - months after distributors who sold the cladding were fined nearly $190,000 by the courts.

Cavan Forde Group (CFG) founder Cavan Forde was sentenced in the Dunedin District Court yesterday after pleading guilty to three representative charges of breaching the Fair Trade Act 1986.

CFG represented in a design guide used between 2009 and 2011 that its AAC blocks were manufactured under the Hebel brand, when in fact they were made in China.

In CFG's 2012 design guide, the company also made representations its Supercrete 50 Cladding System was endorsed by engineering firm Opus International Consultants Ltd, when it was not.

Packaging used for 18 pallets of 50mm AAC panels in 2012 also featured an "0800 4 HEBEL'' phone number and the website www.hebel.co.nz beneath a Supercrete logo.

Mr Forde did not appear in person and was represented by Auckland barrister Rob Latton.

He was the third defendant to plead guilty in the case. A charge against his son, Martin Forde, was withdrawn yesterday.

In the summary of facts, Forde accepted he was the "guiding mind'' of CFG and had overall responsibility for the guides, though he did not personally approve each aspect of them.

Thirteen other FTA charges were withdrawn against Forde yesterday.

A summary of facts said during that period, CFG used a network of up to 17 regional distributors to sell its building and cladding system.

Former owner and director of Christchurch Lightweight Concrete Ltd Darryl Campbell was fined $151,875 in October last year for his part in the matter, and Supercrete Auckland Ltd former director Christopher Middleditch was fined $37,500 in February.

A statement from the Commerce Commission said CFG initially had an exclusive agreement to supply Hebel-branded AAC products in New Zealand, but at the time of the breaches that had come to an end.

Judge Michael Crosbie said the representations could only be seen as an attempt to convey the company's products "in the best possible light''.

There "ought to have been an opportunity much earlier in the piece for the error, if that's what it was, to be remedied'', he said.

A lightning strike of court workers called by the PSA disrupted proceedings in another courtroom at the court yesterday morning.

However Judge Crosbie continued with the case because it did not require court security, and because both lawyers had travelled to be there.



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