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PN 34/02 30 May 2002
A publisher who made misleading statements to businesses in order to sell advertising has been stopped following action by the Office of Fair Trading.
Ingrid Carol Hall, Director of Xenon Publishing Company Ltd, has given written undertakings to the OFT that she will stop making misleading oral statements.
Xenon Publishing Company Ltd produced three publications entitled 'School News', 'Cancer Awareness Magazine' and 'Helping Hands'. They cold-called businesses and claimed that company employees or officers had previously authorised the booking of an advertisement in one of its publications, when no such advertisement had in fact been authorised. In some cases, businesses were given the misleading impression that Xenon Publishing Company Ltd was a charitable organisation and/or that some or all of the proceeds went to charity.
Welcoming the assurances, John Vickers, Director General of Fair Trading, said:
'This is a clear signal that the OFT will take action against businesses who use misleading statements or advertising to deceive their customers.'
1. The Control of Misleading Advertisements Regulations 1988 came into force on 20 June 1988, implementing an EC Directive on misleading advertising. The role of the OFT under the Regulations is to support and reinforce existing controls, not to replace them. The Regulations give the OFT the power to step in if the public interest requires that advertisements complained of should be stopped by means of a court injunction. Alternatively, the OFT can seek assurances or undertakings.
2. The OFT can act only when a complaint has been received. To come within the scope of the Regulations, an advertisement must be misleading (i.e., must deceive or be likely to deceive and affect economic behaviour), and be published in connection with a trade, business, craft or profession to promote the supply or transfer of goods and services. This includes representations made orally, in writing or in pictures.
3. Full details of the assurances signed by Ingrid Carol Hall are given below:
1. I, Ingrid Carol Hall, Director of Xenon Publishing Company Limited, hereby undertake to the Director General that I will refrain from doing (whether by myself or by my servants or agents or any of them or otherwise howsoever), any of the following acts, that is to say make or publish or disseminate or cause or procure or permit or being otherwise concerned whether directly or indirectly through any company or firm in the making, publication or dissemination of any advertisement (within the meaning of regulation 2(1) of The Control of Misleading Advertisements Regulations 1988) by which it is represented or claimed (expressly or impliedly):
A. (i) that a trader, its servants or agents or otherwise howsoever has placed or requested an advertisement in one or any magazine and/or publication which is published by any company or firm referred to in paragraph 1, when no such advertisement has been placed or requested;
(ii) that authorisation has been given by a trader, its servants or agents or otherwise howsoever to place an advertisement in one or any magazine and/or publication which is published by any company or firm referred to in paragraph 1, when no such advertisement has been authorised;
(iii) that Xenon Publishing Company Limited or any other firm or company referred to in paragraph 1 above is a charity or any way connected with a charitable organisation, when it is not;
(iv)that all or any of the proceeds of an advertisement placed in any magazine and/or publication produced by Xenon Publishing Company Limited or any other company or firm referred to in paragraph 1 go to a charity, when they do not.
B. making any advertisement in similar terms or likely to convey a similar impression (expressly or by implication) as set out in paragraph A above.
4. In this press release the functions of the Director General of Fair Trading (DGFT) under the Regulations are for simplicity described as the functions of "the OFT". Indeed the Enterprise Bill proposes to replace the office of the DGFT with the OFT, to which would be transferred the DGFT's functions.
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