COURT UPHOLDS THE COUNCIL‘S DECISION TO FINE SPLIUS
Vilnius Regional Administrative Court (the Court) upheld the Competition Council‘s (the Council) decision to impose the fine of 10 000 LTL on SPLIUS, UAB (SPLIUS) for misleading advertising. SPLIUS did not appeal the Court‘s ruling to the Supreme Administrative Court and, thus, made the ruling final.
On 28 June 2013, the Council imposed the fine of 10 000 LTL on SPLIUS for misleading advertising. The Council opened an investigation having received a complaint by TEO LT, AB, that SPLIUS advertisement offering to purchase internet, digital and cable television services under favourable conditions could be misleading.
During the investigation the Council determined that from 1 September 2012 till 31 October 2012 SPLIUS, a company that provides services of electronic communications in the regions of North and West Lithuania, had been promoting an “Autumn Campaign“. The advertisement of digital television services included the following statements: “digital TV for free (till 1 November)“, “high definition television for free“; and cable television was advertised as “free till 1 November“.
The Council determined that the description of services as being free was misleading: consumers willing to subscribe to these services had to conclude fixed term contracts and to pay extra fees determined by SPLIUS though the aforementioned conditions were not indicated in the advertisement.
The Council also acknowledged that the following statements concerning the prices of the services were misleading: “from 5 LTL per month + router for 1 LTL“, “digital television services recording receiver just 1 LTL” and “for the elderly – from 6 LTL per month” and “from 6 LTL per month”. These statements failed to inform consumers about the contract obligations and missed crucial information that the fees indicated in the advertisements were valid only for a certain period of time, upon the end of which higher fees were applied.
The Council draws attention to the fact that the companies, who acknowledge their infringement of the Law on Advertising may be subject to the reduction of a fine. The Council took this possibility into account in SPLIUS case and imposed a smaller fine as the company acknowledged the infringement.
Currently, 15 cases related to the Council’s resolutions on infringements of the Law on Competition and the Law on Advertising are under consideration by the courts of various instances. In 2013, 10 resolutions adopted by the Council were appealed to the courts and 10 resolutions were upheld by the courts.
Misleading advertising means advertising which in any way, including its presentation, misleads or is likely to mislead the persons to whom it is addressed or whom it reaches and which, by reason of its misleading nature, is likely to affect their economic behaviour or which, for those reasons, harms or is likely to harm another person’s capabilities to compete (Law on Advertising, Article 2(4)).Competition Council Spokesperson