Franchise Bulletin: May 2015 - Can a single act constitute a misleading commercial practice?

In our autumn bulletin last year we flagged new consumer rights of redress affecting franchise businesses that deal with consumers and engage in misleading or aggressive practices. A recent case1 has now clarified that a single act can be a misleading commercial practice.

The consumer protection from unfair trading regulations 2008 describe a commercial practice as "any act, omission, course of conduct, representation or commercial communication by a trader which is directly connected with the promotion, sale or supply of a product to or from consumers whether occurring before, during or after a commercial transaction regarding a product".

The practices covered include misleading acts, omissions and aggressive practices.

This case concerned a customer that was trying to coordinate the expiry of his current cable contract with the start of a new one with a different supplier. The customer had asked for information about when his contract would expire and requested his service be disconnected when his current payment period ended. His current supplier gave him the wrong information so the customer incurred subscription charges from both suppliers for a short time.

The court held - a single misleading act that affected only one consumer was sufficient to constitute a misleading action. It was not relevant that the act was allegedly unintentional or that the additional incurred costs were relatively insignificant.

Word to the Wise - businesses should ensure their sales teams are conscious of avoiding even single misleading acts or omissions and appropriately manage incidences that occur.

Case C-388/13: NemzetiFogyasztovedelmi Hatosagv UPC Magyarorszag Kft

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.