The Trade Descriptions Act 1968 makes it a criminal offence to give a false indication that services have been supplied.
Who: Docklands Estates Ltd
When: July 2000
Where: Court of Appeal Criminal Division, London
The Trade Descriptions Act 1968 makes it a criminal offence to give a false indication that services have been supplied. Docklands Estates’ "Sold" boards appeared on three properties in Docklands for which they had not received instructions. Docklands Estates defended in the Crown court on the basis that a third party had erected the offending signs, but the court rejected the defence and a fine of £7500 for each of the three offences was handed down plus an order to pay £5203 prosecution costs. On appeal the fines were reduced to a total of £6000, but the appeal judges rejected out of hand arguments that this was equivalent to illegal flyposting, where fines of £100 per offence were the norm. The Lord Chief Justice said that these offences were in a different category altogether, putting other honest traders at a disadvantage and giving the public a totally unjustified confidence in the company’s ability to sell similar property. He went further by saying that the £100 penalties ordered by magistrates in flyposting cases were far too low and wanted a clear message to this effect to go out to magistrates throughout the country.
Why this matters:
The judgment is a warning that those prosecuted for public law offences such as this can no longer expect the penalties to be so low that the legal costs dwarf them and the cynical might regard a prosecution as a fair commercial risk. Fighting the prosecution before the Crown Court did not assist, Docklands Estates in this case. Opting for the quicker, cheaper magistrates court trial may have led to a lower fine in the first place but prevention is, as always, better than cure.