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Press releases 2002 -

OFT stops misleading directory enquiries ads

PN 13/02     7 March 2002

Misleading advertising for the internet directory, which businesses confused with '192' directory enquiries services, has been stopped by OFT action in the High Court.

The Court has granted an interim injunction under the Control of Misleading Advertisements Regulations 1988 against Planet Telecom Plc of Wigan and Ltd of London, as well as Planet Telecom directors Mr Peter Hutcheon and Mr John Tonge.

The advertisements, sent by fax, invite businesses to send their details to a premium rate fax line if they wish to amend their entry or receive a more prominent listing in the internet business directory. Subsequent faxes requested similar action if the business wanted to maintain or reinstate its entry.

The advertising misleads by giving the false impression that:

  • the faxes are sent by or on behalf of a telephone company providing a directory enquiry service accessed by telephoning '192', such as British Telecommunications plc
  • any benefit or service obtained by returning the fax to Planet Telecom Plc is free of charge
  • recipients of the faxes will only be listed (or continue to be listed) in the directory if the fax is returned to Planet Telecom Plc.

The OFT took action following the failure of Planet Telecom, Mr Hutcheon and Mr Tonge to provide adequate undertakings about future advertisements.

The Court Order prevents Planet Telecom, Limited, Mr Hutcheon and Mr Tonge from publishing the misleading advertisements or similarly misleading advertisements.

John Vickers, Director General of Fair Trading, said:

'Today's action shows that the OFT, working with the ASA and trading standards, will continue to crack down on misleading and false advertising.'


1. The interim injunction was granted on 6 March 2002.

2. The Control of Misleading Advertisements Regulations (CMARs) 1988 came into force on 20 June 1988 implementing an EC Directive on misleading advertising. The role of the Director General of Fair Trading under the Regulations is to support and reinforce existing controls, not to replace them. The Regulations give him the power to step in if the public interest requires that advertisements complained of should be stopped by means of a court injunction.

3. The Director General can act only when a complaint has been received. To come within his scope an advertisement must be misleading (i.e. it must deceive or be likely to deceive), and be published, in connection with a trade, business craft or profession, to promote the supply or transfer of goods and services.

4. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld a complaint against Planet Telecom trading as 192 Enquiries on 6 December 2000 in relation to the unsolicited fax entitled '192 Enquiries NEED YOUR HELP!' Planet Telecom refused to give assurances to the ASA that the fax would not be distributed again. As a result, the ASA referred the matter to us on 18 January 2001 for our consideration for action under CMARs.

5. Planet Telecom Plc have been the subject of a previous ASA adjudication in August 1998 in respect of unsolicited faxes. The Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS) adjudicated against 4 separate types of faxes sent by Planet Telecom Plc in May 1998.

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