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Misleading and Comparative Advertising

What is misleading advertising?

Any advertising which, in any way, either in its wording or presentation:

  • deceives or is likely to deceive the persons to whom it is addressed or whom it reaches.
  • by reason of its deceptive nature, is likely to affect their economic behaviour.
  • or for those reasons, injures are likely to injure a competitor.

What is comparative advertising?

Any advertising, that explicitly or by implication, identifies a competitor or goods or services offered by a competitor.

Legislation

The Directives on Misleading and Comparative Advertising aim to protect not only consumers but also competitors and the interest of the public in general against misleading advertising and its unfair consequences.

The Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (UCP) was adopted on 11 May 2005. This directive regulates commercial practices business to consumers(B2C). The rules on misleading advertising in this directive will replace the B2C rules in the Misleading Advertising Directive. The UCP shall be implemented in Member States by 12 June 2007 and applicable by 12 December 2007.

How to control misleading advertising and comparative advertising?

National rules may allow persons or organisations with a legitimate interest in prohibiting misleading advertising, or controlling comparative advertising, to take legal action and/or go before an administrative authority. Consumers should check which system (judicial or administrative) their national authorities have chosen.

The national courts or administrative authorities have enough power to order advertising to cease, either for a certain period or definitively. They can also order its prohibition if the advertising has not yet been published, but publication is imminent. A voluntary control by the national self-regulatory bodies can also be carried out.

Advertisers should always be able to justify the validity of any claims they make. Therefore advertisers (not consumers) should provide evidence of the accuracy of their claims.

Report from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on Consumer Complaints in respect of Distance selling and comparative advertising, 10 March 2000 ESDADEFRITNLPTFISVpdf(170KB)

Directive 97/55/EC of European Parliament and of the Council of 6 October 1997 amending Directive 84/450/EEC concerning misleading advertising so as to include comparative advertising

Council Directive of 10 September 1984 relating to the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States concerning misleading advertising (84/450/EEC) - consolidated version

Directive 89/552/EEC as amended by Directive 97/36/EC concerning the pursuit of television broadcasting activities (Television without frontier)

Directive 2000/13/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 March 2000 on the labelling, presentation and the advertising of foodstuffs

See also Directorate-General Internal Market on Commercial communications

EC Consumer Law Compendium: a Comparative Analysis and a database of the EU Consumer Law Acquis

 
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