As if its recent death throes weren’t painful enough, here the infamous digital terrestrial gets into a “fine” mess over misleading ad claims.
Topic: Trade descriptions
Who: ITV Digital Plc and Warwickshire Trading Standards
Where: Warwickshire Magistrates Court in Warwickshire
When: Spring 2002
As if it didn’t have enough troubles at the time, ITV Digital Plc was recently hauled before the local magistrates for making false statements in their marketing material and advertisements about the internet access made available through the channel. Warwickshire Trading Standards, the prosecuting authority, complained about offers of “full internet access through your TV” allowing consumers to “explore the whole of the internet from your living room, without the need for a PC”. The fact was, however, that buyers of an “Onnet Box” got nothing like the service described and were barred from access to numerous websites. The prosecution was under the still alive and well Trade Descriptions Act 1968. ITV Digital Plc pleaded guilty to three offences and was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,484.44.
Why this matters:
Advertisers often lose sight of the fact that if marketing material is misleading, not only can it create problems under the relevant codes; it can also lead to a more painful process by way of prosecutions under public law such as the Trade Descriptions Act, which was wheeled out here. It is also worth noting here that fines being meted out by magistrates in cases of this kind are steadily increasing, so that it is less and less a commercially viable proposition to take the risk of a prosecution like this on the basis that the financial penalty will not necessarily be enormous, even if the risk falls in.