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THE DAILY "ŠIAULŲ NAUJIENOS" ENGAGED IN PROHIBITED COMPARABLE ADVERTISING

17 12 2009

The Competition Council passed the Resolution concerning the advertising statements published in the daily “Šiaulių naujienos“ by UAB Šiaulių naujienos in which certain data of the daily and competitors was compared. The daily “Šiaulių naujienos“ was publishing a number of advertising statements, such as:  “Objectivity of press publications in Šiauliai”, “Reliability of press publications in Šiauliai”, “The most readable paper in Šiauliai”, “Most demanded press publications in Šiauliai”, wherein using graphs the daily compared a number of papers and noted:  „The survey conducted by the market analysis and research group UAB RAIT in January 2009”, or “*112 respondents interviewed. Maximum error up to 8.5 percent. The survey conducted by the market analysis and research group UAB RAIT in January 2009”. These advertising statements by the daily "Šiaulių naujienos” were recognised by the Competition Council to constitute items of prohibited comparable advertising.

For the use of prohibited comparative statements the Competition Council imposed upon UAB Šiaulių naujienos a fine in the amount of LTL 5,000. The company was obligated to immediately cease the use of prohibited comparative advertising statements where such activity was still continued.

The investigation was initiated according to the application lodged by the public establishment Šiauliai plus. In the course of the investigation the competition officers sought to establish whether the advertising statements published in the daily for self-promotion purposes (the advertising statements and diagrams used in all cases highlighted “Šiaulių naujienos“ as the percentage leader in comparison to other dailies competitors thus seeking to demonstrate the attractiveness of the daily for readers in Šiauliai) could possibly mislead consumers due to their incompleteness. Although the advertising statements were based on the data of the survey conducted by the company RAIT, it was established that the statements deliberately omitted part of the information the provision whereof, taken into account other information provided in the specific advertising statement, is necessary in order to avoid misleading of consumers. The Competition Council had doubts concerning the arrangement of the survey where the sample of the respondents included readers or buyers of the daily “Šiaulių naujienos” only that most likely rarely, if at all, read other press publications. This kind of survey arrangements could hardly be considered as able to produce any objective comparison of different press publications.

Having assessed the circumstances established in the course of the investigation the Competition Council arrived at the conclusion that the advertising statements by their very nature actually were instances of prohibited comparative advertising that could possibly mislead the users of the advertising and affect their economic behaviour, i.e., their selection of the paper, which constituted an infringement of the requirements of Article 6 of the Law on Advertising.  Furthermore, the comparative advertising statements could also potentially mislead undertakings – potential providers of advertising in relation to their decision which papers to choose for advertising space which eventually could affect the possibilities of other undertakings to compete.

When determining the amount of the fine the Competition Council duly took into account the lengthy duration of the infringement as the misleading advertising statements had been published in February – July 2009, as well as the moderate extent of the publication of such statements. The statements were published in the daily “Šiaulių naujienos” only, also the responsive actions by the company that started taking measures to prevent the proliferation of the prohibited comparative advertising even before the Competition Council had completed its investigation.

Competition Council Spokesperson