Court ruling against puff in car ad hints at legal crackdown

A new get-tough policy by Britain’s courts is threatening to put an end to so-called advertising ’puffery’.

A new get-tough policy by Britain’s courts is threatening to put an

end to so-called advertising ’puffery’.

Trading standards officers and disaffected consumers are expected to

take advantage of last month’s Court of Appeal ruling which legal

experts say makes it increasingly difficult for advertisers to praise

their own products.

They believe the judgment means advertisers and agencies will have to

choose their words more carefully or face the prospect of civil actions

or prosecutions under the Trade Descriptions Act.

Evidence of a legal clampdown came in a ruling last month over a

magazine ad for a replica vintage car which claimed it was ’absolutely

mint. All the right bits and does it go.’

The buyer of the car took legal action after discovering that it had not

been correctly modified.

The advertiser’s claim that the description was a ’puff’, or statement

of opinion, was dismissed by the court which said the words were a

statement of fact.

Philip Circus, the Newspaper Society’s consultant on advertising law,

said the ruling signalled the courts’ growing intolerance of ’puffs’:

’It means agencies will have to be very careful about laudatory comments

in ads,’ he said.

’The line between a ’puff’ and a statement of fact in car ads is

becoming very narrow because agencies have exhausted all the things they

can say about the products.’


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