And that's not all, there are all sorts of 'trading unfairly' concepts to get your head round. The UK government has issued a consultation paper on the draft EU Directive on Unfair Commercial Practices. The proposed Directive includes a general prohibition on business-to-consumer unfair commercial practices and specific rules aimed at combating misleading and aggressive practices. The aim of the Directive is to enable consumers to buy, and for business to sell, with increased confidence anywhere in the EU.

Competition laws to be Euro-harmonised; no more ‘white lies’ on adverts

The Directive aims to replace the differences in national laws amongst member states with a single EU-wide regime. Business will be able to advertise and sell to all consumers in the EU on the basis of one set of rules.

The Directive was adopted by the European Commission on 18 June 2003 and will be subject to the co-decision procedure, which means that the European Parliament and Council will decide it jointly. Yet more red-tape to worry about? Possibly but, as usual, the Directive’s missives are open to interpretation and who, exactly, will consumers complain to?

The DTI will be holding a meeting on the afternoon of 6th October 2003 to consider the issues raised in the consultation document.

The UK government consultation will end on 17th October 2003.

In addition to the consultation document, the government has also published two documents to help set the Directive in a UK context – a report on the ‘general duty not to trade unfairly’ and a legal study on ‘The Impact of Adopting a Duty to Trade Fairly’.

The DTI concludes that the Directive will have a considerable impact on the structure of English law but that courts already apply general principles of fair trading and that the application of general rules has not hitherto proven problematic for courts or business.

Download the PDFs from the link below for all the matters of concern but here are just a few, some of which will impact on suppliers and IBDs which advertise in consumer and trade mags:

There’s to be a black list of unfair commercial practices,including advertisement features, also known as advertorials. They would be banned.

There will be an obligation for advertisers to provide consumers with ‘material information’ to ensure businesses do not make overt misleading claims. Omitting to divulge information that enables the consumer to make an informed choice will also be penalised.

The two-stage test for determining whether a practice is unfair has not been clearly defined and will be open to interpretation across member states in its current format, particularly in relation to the definition of professional diligence.

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