Prosecution under the Trade Description Act is quite rare as it often very difficult to prove that a product or service has been described incorrectly. Smaller cases are more common and larger organisations often succeed in evading prosecution. Despite this, since the launch of the Act in 1968 numerous major companies have been prosecuted. Below is just some of the major cases that have taken place:
Tesco has been the subject of numerous cases in relation to the Trade Description Act. One case was relating to the sale of discounted washing power within their stores. The company had advertised the price of the product on posters within the supermarket and when they ran out of the product they began stocking the shelves with regularly priced stock. The store manager failed to remove the posters advertising the lower price and customers were being charged full price. Tesco was found guilty of breaching the regulations within the Trade Description Act 1968. Initially the company had attempted to blame human error for the pricing but the company was still convicted.
This was a landmark case and hugely influenced the reforms of the Act which occurred in years to come. Tesco initially strongly denied any wrong doing in relation to the Act and attempted to avoid prosecution by stating a similar mistake had occurred.
Another major UK company that has been prosecuted under the Act is Marks & Spencer. The firm was found guilty of misleading customers and was fined £10,000. The marketing department for the company had advertised that many of their menswear products have been made in Italy, when in reality the products had been made in countries including Lithuania, India and Egypt.
This case was actually triggered after a member of the public discovered that the clothes they had purchased had been manufactured in Egypt. This is despite the fact that the labels on the clothing stated they had been produced in Italy. A complaint was made by the consumer to their local trading standards officer, this resulted in an investigation being launched.
Including in the products which were being described as authentic Italian products were a cashmere jacket that had been made in Romania and a pair of shoes made in India.
In court the retailer admitted breaching five counts of the Act and was fined £2,000 for each breach.
It is more common for smaller cases to reach court within the UK; mostly due to the fact that more cases are reported. It is rare for large companies to be reported despite the fact that mispricing happens on a regular basis. If you do spot a breach of the Trade Description Act as a consumer you are in a position to report the company.
Goods that have been priced at the wrong price should be sold at the advertised price or this signifies a breach of the Act.