Toyota Belgium claimed before the Brussels Commercial Court that Daewoo ads comparing the prices of selected Daewoo and Toyota models were not comparing like with like and were unnecessarily disparaging of the Toyota brand
Topic: Comparative Advertising
Who: Daewoo and Toyota
When: September 2000
Where: The Brussels Commercial Court
Toyota Belgium claimed before the Brussels Commercial Court that Daewoo ads comparing the prices of selected Daewoo and Toyota models were not comparing like with like and were unnecessarily disparaging of the Toyota brand. A radio ad said for instance ;
"But if you absolutely insist on spending more money, then buy for instance a Toyota Avensis 1600 Linea Terra. It offers less comfort [than the Daewoo Nubira] and costs 221,500 BEF more."
The Court rejected Toyota's complaints about other [press] advertising containing detailed comparisons. It did find, however, that the radio spot broke the rules and ordered Daewoo to broadcast a corrective statement during one week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, before and after each news bulletin at 7, 8, 12, 1 and 5pm as follows:-
"A few months ago Daewoo aired an ad as part of the "Happy Daewoo" advertising campaign and the ad was unnecessarily aggressive in its comparison between our Daewoo Nubira and Toyota's Linea Terra. The reality is that you can buy different cars for different prices and an absolute comparison is not possible."
Why this matters:
The verdict reflects the implementing in Belgium of the new comparative advertising directive, as, prior to this, comparative advertising in Belgium was well nigh impossible. The directive requires, amongst other things that only products meeting the same needs are compared, that the comparison is of material, relevant and verifiable features and that advertising should not without due cause disparage another's brands. Clearly the detailed press ads, showing the points of comparison passed muster under these new rules, whilst the more subjective "less comfort" claim on the radio did not.
In the UK the directive has also been implemented but under our rules an order for the publication of corrective advertising is not an available form of relief. In comparative advertising disputes, however, where for instance trade mark infringement or malicious falsehood are claimed, it is not uncommon for the offended advertiser to demand as recompense the cost of a corrective advertising campaign. It is surely only a matter of time before the Court considers this to be an acceptable way of putting the Claimant into the position it would have occupied if the offending comparative advertising had not been published.
Our thanks to Jan Ravelingien of Marx van Ranst, Vermeesch & Partners of Brussels, (firstname.lastname@example.org) EALA member for Belgium, for this article.