To some, a photo of Madonna without her wedding dress might be reason enough for buying the latest issue of OK! Magazine. For others, it might be the very opposite.
Topic: Trade descriptions
Who: OK! magazine
Where: A Magistrates Court in the UK
When: November 2001
A prosecution was brought under the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 against Northern & Shell, publishers of the weekly celebrity magazine OK! On the OK! issue in question, a flash screamed "Wedding souvenir special", naming Madonna and Guy Ritchie. One punter saw the magazine on a supermarket rack and bought it hoping to find a supplement with photographs of the Highland Madonna/Ritchie wedding. On getting home and opening the magazine she was disappointed to find that there was nothing of the kind. There were pictures of Madonna alright, but in ordinary garb, not in her wedding dress, which had been kept highly confidential. The disappointed customer reported her experience to her local Trading Standards Department. They formed the view that the promotional flash on the cover of the magazine was a false trade description. They felt that the phrase "Wedding souvenir special" would be understood to mean that inside there would be a supplement featuring photographs of the nuptials, when this was not the case at all. A prosecution was brought under the Trade Descriptions Act 1968. Publishers Northern & Shell apologised for an "error of judgement" and a fine of £3,500 with £1,000 costs was handed down.
Why this matters:
With so many magazines jostling for space and attention on retail magazine racks, flashes on the front cover as to what is inside can be all-important in clinching a sale. This case shows that care must be taken if painful and costly legal ramifications are not to result.