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Press releases 2002 -

End of the line for misleading directory enquiries ads

Final injunction against Planet Telecom

PN 44/02    23 July 2002

Planet Telecom, director Peter Hutcheon and former director John Tonge have agreed to a final injunction in the High Court which prevents them issuing misleading advertising for the www.directoryenquiries.biz internet directory (formerly www.192enquiries.com).

In March 2002, the High Court granted an interim injunction under the Control of Misleading Advertisements Regulations 1988 against Planet Telecom Plc of Wigan and 192enquiries.com Ltd of London, as well as Peter Hutcheon and John Tonge.

The advertising that was the subject of the action 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 BT.

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 www.directoryenquiries.biz internet business directory.

The final injunction made by the court followed contempt of court proceedings brought by the OFT, after receiving evidence from Wigan Trading Standards and members of the public that Planet Telecom was continuing to issue, in the opinion of the OFT, misleading advertising prohibited by the interim injunction. The final order strengthens the previous order as it requires any future advertisements to display clearly the full website address of the business directory at the top of the advertisement.

John Vickers, Director General of Fair Trading, said: 'The OFT and trading standards will continue to work together to take action against advertisers who mislead customers or breach court orders under the misleading advertising regulations.'

NOTES

1. The High Court Order was made on Monday 22 July 2002.

2. The interim injunction was granted on 6 March 2002 following the failure of Planet Telecom, Mr Hutcheon and Mr Tonge to provide adequate undertakings about future advertisements. The interim injunction prevented Planet Telecom, 192enquiries.com Limited, Mr Hutcheon and Mr Tonge from publishing the misleading advertisements or similarly misleading advertisements. (See OFT release 13/02)

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 (ie 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.

5. 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.

6. 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 four separate types of faxes sent by Planet Telecom Plc in May 1998.

7. In this 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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