NEWS: Judge throws out Vodafone’s High Court claims

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.

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.