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Everyone is aware of the concept of ‘buyer beware’. Despite this, there are numerous protections in place for anyone who buys a product, particularly in relation to the product being of a suitable quality and doing what it is advertised to do.

There are numerous instances where farming enterprises rely on a product doing what it is advertised to do – whether it is the seeds being sown, the fertiliser being spread, the pesticides being sprayed or the machinery and equipment being used to undertake the farming activities.

But what happens when a product doesn’t do what it is meant to? The law provides some protection, although it isn’t all-encompassing. This has been evidenced by a case that has been running for a number of years. Court proceedings were begun against Advanta Seeds in about 2017, on behalf of a group of commercial sorghum farmers.

These related to the supply by Advanta of sorghum seed, via distributors, which was contaminated with seed from the weed shattercane. The consequence of the sorghum seed being contaminated with shattercane seed meant those affected suffered economic loss in attempting to eradicate the shattercane.

The main issue in dispute was whether Advanta could avoid liability as a result of a disclaimer on the bags of the sorghum seeds. The disclaimer sought to limit/or remove liability for any contamination in the sorghum seed – essentially it said there might be contaminants in the seed and these could cause losses to the grower’s business and any such losses were the growers’ responsibility.

In the initial court hearing, and again in February on appeal in the Supreme Court of Queensland, it was determined the warning was sufficient for Advanta to avoid a duty of care and. As a result, not be liable to the growers.

The decision of the Supreme Court has now been appealed to the High Court, which is the last avenue for any recourse for the growers. While it will be interesting to see which way the High Court goes, the important take away is to pay close attention to all information provided when buying products.

This includes any information written on the products themselves or whatever they are contained in, such as bags or boxes, as you never know what you might be agreeing to.

This article was published in the 11 May edition of The Stock Journal.