Many people assume that advertising regulations are only designed to protect consumers, and that traders are largely considered to have enough knowledge and business sense to look after themselves when it comes to marketing. This is not the case. Whilst not quite as comprehensive or onerous as consumer advertising regulations, those who advertise their goods and services to other businesses are obliged to comply with certain obligations. Two of the golden rules to follow are set out below:
1. Advertising must not be misleading
An advert will fall within this category if:
a. it deceives, or is likely to deceive, the businesses to whom it is directed; and
b. the deception impacts upon the businesses’ “economic behaviour” or injures a competitor. In layman’s terms, would the deception cause a business to buy a product it would not otherwise have purchased? Does it damage a competitor’s reputation?
Take for example an advert claiming the price of an item is an “introductory offer – limited time only”. If the advertiser had no intention of increasing the price of this product after its introduction then this statement would be considered to be misleading.
2. Comparative advertising is only allowed in certain circumstances
If you compare your products to those of another party, make sure that the products that you compare meet the same needs / purpose as one another. An electric socket will obviously not be able to meet the same lighting requirements as a lamp! You will also need to take care not to confuse traders, leading them to believe you are selling your competitor’s products or are otherwise linked to your competitors. There is no universal prohibition against comparing your prices to those of a competitor, just make sure that you are not seen to be passing yourself off as that competitor.
If in doubt, put yourself in the shoes of the person at whom you are directing your advertisement. How would they interpret it?
This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but should be a step in the right direction when writing your next advertisement.
These notes have been prepared for the purpose of an article only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.