You must be sure that the price is right

Comparative advertising is a feisty but permitted way of getting your message across typically for price comparison.

But to stay on the right side of the law you must follow these rules:

don’t mislead trade customers or consumers;

only compare products meeting the same needs or used for the same purpose;

be objective when comparing one or more features, which may include price;

don’t create confusion among traders between your advert and a competitor or its branding;

don’t discredit or denigrate competitors;

compare products with the same designation, where relevant;

don’t take unfair advantage of a competitor’s brand marks or the designation of origin of its competing products;

don’t present products as imitations or replicas of products bearing a protected trade mark or trade name.

Infringement is a criminal offence; complaints are made initially to trading standards, which has the power to prosecute.

That’s all very well you may say, but if you’re on the receiving end you will want quick action. Some steps you could try are:

a circular to your customers with correct information;

a letter to the culprit demanding a list of all recipients of the offending circular and requiring a correction in approved form and a written undertaking to desist;

a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority;

if the circular / advert is defamatory, court action to enforce publication of an apology a major step which will require more detailed consideration.

You need to have your own coherent price comparison evidence to prove that.

copy; S Calnan 2011

Sebastian Calnan specialises in supply chain and distribution law at Calnan Cox Solicitors in Northamptonshire and can be contacted at scc@calnancox.co.uk or on 01604 882287

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