NEWS: EC meeting set to rubber-stamp comparative advertising in Europe

The long-awaited move to allow comparative advertising across Europe looks set to be passed at a meeting of the European Council of Ministers this week.

The long-awaited move to allow comparative advertising across Europe

looks set to be passed at a meeting of the European Council of Ministers

this week.



If given the go-ahead, the draft directive will reduce curbs on

comparative advertising in other EC countries, which currently have more

stringent rules than the UK. In France and Germany, for instance, it is

virtually impossible to run comparative ads.



In Britain, which has already liberalised its legislation regulating

comparative advertising, the move will offer advertisers more scope in

the creation of European-wide campaigns.



It could also, however, restrict their freedom to knock rival products

in their advertisements, according to Stephen Groom, a partner at the

law firm, Lewis Silkin.



He commented: ‘The Trademarks Act has already relaxed the position on

referring to competitors in ads. But, if passed, this directive may

encourage advertisers to shun comparative ads because such ads will have

to conform both to the Trademarks Act and the new comparative

advertising directive. The test for the two will be different and this

may confuse advertisers.’



The directive states that comparative advertising will be allowed

provided it is objective, relevant, verifiable and that it compares

fairly chosen and representative features.



It warns that advertising must not mislead, confuse or discredit a

competitor. In a new twist for English law, it also warns that ads must

not take unfair advantage of the trade name or trademark of a

competitor.



If signed off by the EC, the law could be cleared for implementation by

1997 or 1998.



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