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Press releases 2002 -

Misleading data protection ads stopped

31 May 2002    PN 35/02

Misleading business advertising for data protection notification services has been halted following OFT action in the High Court.

Proceedings were issued against Data Protection Agency Services Ltd of Southport (also trading as Data Collection Enforcement Agency) and their director, Michael Sullivan, for an injunction to prevent them from continuing to issue misleading advertising. At a hearing the judge granted the injunction. He did so upon being satisfied that the advertisements were materially misleading and with both the company and the director consenting to the injunction being granted.

The OFT considered the advertising was misleading because it gave the impression that it came from an official body and that the businesses receiving it were under some sort of legal obligation to register with the company immediately at a cost of about £95 plus VAT.

While most businesses processing personal data are required by law to notify the Information Commissioner, the fee is only £35 – on which no VAT is payable – and many small businesses that process personal data for limited purposes are not required to notify. Businesses can notify the Information Commissioner directly.

Welcoming the action, John Vickers, Director General of Fair Trading said:

'Misleading advertising harms honest businesses and consumers. The OFT, working with the Advertising Standards Authority and Trading Standards, will continue to stamp out false and misleading claims.'

NOTES

1. The injunction was granted on Thursday 30 May 2002.

2. The ASA adjudicated against the Data Collection Enforcement Agency (a trading name of Data Protection Agency Services) on 14th November 2001. The full adjudication can be viewed at www.asa.org.uk

3. 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 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.

4. The OFT can act only when a complaint has been received. To come within its scope an advertisement must be misleading (i.e. it 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.

5. Details of whether or not you are required to notify under the Data Protection Act 1998 are available on the Information Commissioner's website at www.dpr.gov.uk or telephone its notification helpline on 01625 545740.

6. 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'. 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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