The long-awaited move to allow comparative advertising across Europe
looks set to be passed at a meeting of the European Council of Ministers
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
If signed off by the EC, the law could be cleared for implementation by
1997 or 1998.