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Advertisements must state the correct product composition

Advertisements must state the correct product composition

There are many advertisements for consumer products. Not only about price, but also about composition. If the composition of a product is advertised this must be sufficiently precise, so states a recent decision of the Dutch Advertising Code Committee (RCC).

Article | 18 June 2018 | Joost Becker

The legal requirements placed on advertisements

Advertising messages can be considered misleading as regards the nature of the product, such as its composition. The law imposes a number of prohibitions on this, see section 6:194 Dutch Civil Code, section 6:193a and further Dutch Civil Code and section 6:194a Dutch Civil Code. The Dutch Advertising Code has similar regulations.

Products and product compositions

There is an increase in rulings on deception relating to products and product compositions, in particular of consumer products.

A very recent case related to the offer of clothing, namely ‘Old Skool’ shoes (“Style: VD3HY28”) on the website of www.vans.nl. Under “description and characteristics” is stated:

“Composition 56% Suede, 44% canvas

The materials used to produce these products (including adhesives) do not contain animal by-products and are therefore 100% vegan”.

The RCC received a complaint stating that the text about product composition was not correct: a suede shoe is not vegan.

The legal judgment

In the advertising message the shoes, consisting of 56% suede, are promoted as “100% vegan”. “Vegan means that only non-animal products are used. Suede is a type of leather and therefore derived from an animal” so states the RCC. It also ruled:

“By stating that the materials used for the production of the shoes do not contain animal by-products and are therefore 100% vegan, the statement contains incorrect information as referred to in the opening words of article 8.2 of the Dutch Advertising Code (NRC). As the average consumer may therefore be persuaded to make a decision on the purchase of the shoes which he would otherwise not have made, the statement is misleading and therefore dishonest in the meaning of article 7 NRC.”

In view of this, it is decided that the advertising message was contrary to the provisions in article 7 NRC.

Care

This case shows yet again why advertisers, when promoting their products – including on websites and web shops – must be careful. The shown product composition must be correct. Otherwise it can be judged as being misleading.

Joost Becker, lawyer specialising in advertising law

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