Coca Cola came before the Brussels Commercial Court in a spat with Unilever over their respective promotions.
Who: Coca Cola Belgium and Unilever
When: October 2000
Where: The Brussels Commercial Court
Coca Cola came before the Brussels Commercial Court in a spat with Unilever over their respective promotions. The Unilever promo escaped legal sanction at the end of the day, but Coca Cola did not enjoy the same fate. In their promo "Coca Cola Original" products could be ordered by telephone at reduced prices if the punter had collected loyalty points by buying promotional packs of Coke.
The problem was that although the promotion involved the sale of goods without face to face contact between buyer and seller and was therefore caught by the new Distance Selling Directive, much of the disclosure required by that Directive had not been given. For example the new consumer right to cancel a purchase within 7 days after taking delivery had not been notified, the full identity of the seller had not been given, nor had it been explained how goods could be returned if the cancellation right had been exercised or who would be responsible for the return costs.
Why this matters:
The UK Distance Selling Regulations, as in the rest of Europe, have a wide application. As this case shows, they apply not only in a standard e-tail, retail or mail order context, but also to any promotional offer in which products are offered and the transaction is not effected in-store.
UK promoters and distance sellers are less likely to be in court over breach of these regulations by way of a civil action with a competitor. Here, litigation is more likely to arise in three different ways. First of all, repeat offenders may be on the wrong end of an application by Trading Standards Officers for an injunction to prevent further offending practices. Secondly, consumers who are sued by suppliers, perhaps for non-payment, may raise failure to comply with the Regulations as a defence. Thirdly, once the new EU Consumer Injunctions Directive has been brought into force here in the UK within the next few months, (see our separate report on this in the "Preview" section) there will be an exposure to applications to the court by consumer bodies for injunctions preventing breaches of the Regulations.
Our thanks to Jan Ravelingien of Marx van Ranst, Vermeesch & Partners of Brussels, (firstname.lastname@example.org) EALA member for Belgium, for this article.