A major threat to the legal use of comparative advertising in Britain
was averted this week after the High Court threw out claims against the
mobile phone company, Orange.
The rival phone group, Vodafone, accused Orange’s campaign last autumn -
which specifically mentioned Vodafone - of containing malicious
falsehoods, being misleading and infringing the Vodafone trademark.
The campaign, which said that ‘on average, Orange users save pounds 20
per month’ compared with the equivalent Vodafone tariffs, was the first
to use a rival’s name and logo on television since the rules for
competitive advertising were formalised by the 1994 Copyright Act.
The act said it was permissible to use a competitor’s name and logo in
ads as long as they were not disparaging and the advertisements stuck
only to the facts concerning each company.
In dismissing the claims, Mr Justice Jacob called Vodafone’s case on
malice ‘hopeless’ and ordered Vodafone to pay all costs. He also
rejected as ‘preposterous’ Vodafone’s allegations of deliberate perjury
by three Orange witnesses.
His dismissal can also be seen as a vindication of the voluntary
regulation system in Britain. The Orange campaign had been cleared by
the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre.
Lisa Gernon, group marketing director of Orange, confirmed the court
victory and added that Vodafone had moved its prices closer to Orange’s
since the WCRS campaign was broadcast.
A Vodafone spokeswoman said the company was disappointed with the
outcome and was considering whether to appeal. ‘We feel the case turned
on the judge placing a narrow view on the interpretation of the wording
used in in the ads,’ she said.