Dunnes prices comparisons with Aldi ‘misleading’, court finds
Court rules in favour of Aldi over pricing labels on sausages, yoghurts, tomato ketchup
German discounter Aldi claimed that the on-shelf banners created the impression that Dunnes’ products generally, or its “Family Essentials” range, were cheaper than Aldi products when there was “no basis” for such a claim, Aldi claimed.
Dunnes Stores has been found guilty of engaging in misleading commercial practices when comparing the prices of some of its own-brand goods with Aldi products in a move which the High Court said was likely to deceive consumers.
Mr Justice Brian Cregan ruled in favour of Aldi over the pricing labels on Dunnes’ shelves in 14 out of 15 products before the court including sausages, turkey breast mince, yoghurts, tomato ketchup, tinned beef and chicken dogfoods and dry catfood.
In doing so Mr Justice Cregan said Dunnes Stores had infringed consumer protection law and EU regulations.
Aldi had alleged Dunnes on multiple occasions infringed Aldi trademarks by displaying banners in Dunnes’ supermarkets which contained the words “Lower Price Guarantee” and “Guaranteed Lower Prices on all your Family Essentials every week”.
Aldi took the action on the grounds that the banners failed to objectively compare one or more of the relevant and verifiable features of the Dunnes Stores products with those of Aldi and so did not comply with the Consumer Protection Act 2007 and the European Communities (Misleading and Comparative Advertising) Regulations 2007.
The German discounter also claimed that the on-shelf banners created the impression that Dunnes’ products generally, or its “Family Essentials” range, were cheaper than Aldi products when there was “no basis” for such a claim, Aldi claimed.
It accused Dunnes Stores of “comparing products which were not of the same quality and therefore giving an inaccurate comparison.”
It also said it had been “comparing products which were of different weights and therefore making inaccurate calculations which failed to show a proper comparison on a pro-rata basis for customers”. And thirdly the court was told that Dunnes had been “giving an inaccurate price of the plaintiff’s products at the time of the comparison”.
Dunnes denied the claims and told an earlier High Court hearing that comparing non - branded or own brand products “is always more difficult than comparing branded products.
This is because competitors’ own brand product ranges are rarely identical in terms of ingredients and specifications”.
It said that while some of the products “may not have identical ingredients and specifications it does not necessarily follow that the products are not comparable”.
In his ruling, Mr Justice Cregan found “shelf edge labels”, claiming Dunnes Stores prices for 14 of the 15 identified products were lower than Aldi prices had failed to objectively compare products which met the same needs or were intended for the same purpose.
He also said the advertisements included “the provision of false information” in relation to the 14 out of 15 comparative products, including information about the nature, composition, characteristics or ingredients of those products.
The information would be likely to cause an average consumer to make a transactional decision which that consumer would not otherwise make and this was contrary to the Consumer Protection Act, 2007.
The advertisements were misleading because they were likely to cause the average consumer to be deceived or misled in relation to those 14 products.
He also found Dunnes ommitted or concealed material information in relation to comparative advertisements that the average consumer would need to make an informed transactional decision.
The case was adjourned for two weeks to allow both sides consider the judgment before the court makes any orders. Dunnes will also consider whether to seek a stay on any order in the event of an appeal.
“The grocery retail market is highly competitive and in order to find the best value consumers must have confidence that the advertising information with which they are being presented is transparent, accurate and true,” said Aldi’s Group Buying Director, Finbar McCarthy after the ruling.
“Today’s ruling benefits consumers, clarifying their protection under the law.”