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Press releases 2007 -

OFT accepts undertakings from Book Club Associates

101/07    13 July 2007

Following discussions with the OFT, Book Club Associates (BCA) has given undertakings not to use misleading adverts.

BCA is a partnership formed by Book Club Associates Ltd and Book Club Trading Ltd, which operates membership book clubs across the UK selling books online and by mail order.

The OFT considered that a number of the claims made in BCA's advertising were misleading under the Control of Misleading Advertisements Regulations. Whilst BCA did not accept that their advertisements were misleading, they agreed to work with the OFT to reach an outcome that will benefit consumers.

BCA and the two companies, as well as George Saul, the Chief Executive of BCA and a director of both partner companies, have given binding undertakings to the OFT not to use adverts which mislead consumers about their obligations when joining BCA's book clubs:

  • to buy a minimum number of books
  • to receive a minimum number of book club magazines or brochures and/or to receive them for a minimum period of time
  • to continue to receive magazines or brochures beyond a minimum number and/or a minimum period, and
  • to buy recommended books (the 'Editor's Choice') every time they are recommended, unless specifically rejected each time - even after consumers have received the minimum number of magazines or brochures and the minimum required period.

The advertising must comply with the undertakings by 24 July 2007.

Sean Williams, OFT Executive Director, said:

'It is important that traders do not mislead consumers about the obligations involved in membership of clubs such as BCA's. It should be made clear to consumers what their obligations are in joining such clubs and these undertakings help to achieve that.'

NOTES

1. Undertakings were given by Book Club Associates Limited, Book Club Trading Limited, BCA (the partnership) and Mr Saul between 22 and 24 May 2007.

2. Book Club Associates Limited's, and Book Club Trading Limited's, registered office is: One Fleet Place, London, EC4M 7WS

3. BCA's (the partnership) address is: BCA Head Office, Greater London House, Hampstead Road, London, NW1 7TZ

4. The OFT sought the undertakings under Part 8 of the Enterprise Act 2002. The Enterprise Act 2002 improves consumer protection by giving enforcers strengthened powers to obtain court orders against traders that breach a range of consumer legislation including that relating to misleading advertising (the Control of Misleading Advertisements Regulations 1988 (CMARs).

5. The CMARs aim to protect consumers and businesses from misleading advertisements and advertisements that make prohibited comparisons. The OFT's main role under the CMARs is to support and reinforce the existing advertising controls exercised by other bodies, such as the Advertising Standards Authority ('the ASA'), not replace them. The OFT will usually step in where action by those other bodies has not resolved complaints about an advertisement and it is in the public interest that the OFT should act.

6. The OFT can only act under the CMARs when a complaint about an advertisement is received. To come within the scope of the CMARs, an advertisement must be misleading (i.e. it must deceive or be likely to deceive the recipient and affect their economic behaviour, or for those reasons harm the interests of a competitor), and be published in connection with a trade, business, craft or profession, in order to promote the supply or transfer of goods or services, immovable property, rights or obligations. The OFT can take action against anyone appearing to be concerned or likely to be concerned with the publication of a misleading advertisement.

7. Only a court can decide that an advertisement is misleading under the CMARs. It has not done so in relation to BCA's advertisements.




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