trade descriptions – the details a business or seller provides about what they sell
To remember what trade descriptions means use the following mnemonic:
If you're a market trader, it's important that the descriptions (trade descriptions) are accurate for the products you're selling.
A trade description is any description, including a promise or an indication, of any goods or services whether by words, pictures, or otherwise, that is applied to or in connection with goods and services for the purpose of promoting their sale or supply.
Trade descriptions are regulated in the UK by the Trade Descriptions Act 1968. This act makes it an offence to apply a false trade description to goods or services and also prohibits the use of misleading omission (the removal of a detail that is likely to mislead the consumer).
There are several examples of trade descriptions, including:
- The name of the product.
- The price of the product.
- A statement about the quality of the product (for example, "100% organic.”)
- The origin of the product (for example, “Made in USA.”)
If you believe that a trade description is false or misleading, you can report it to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The CMA is the UK’s competition and consumer authority. They have the power to investigate and take action against businesses that use false or misleading trade descriptions. Advice for businesses looking to avoid issues with the Trade Descriptions Act include:
- Be aware of the law: The Trade Description Act is a complex piece of legislation, so it is important to be aware of the law before making any claims about your products or services.
- Be truthful: Always be truthful about your products and services. If you make a claim, make sure you can back it up with evidence.
- Be clear: Be clear about what your products or services are and what they do. Avoid using vague or ambiguous language.
- Be consistent: Make sure that all of your marketing materials are consistent with each other. This will help avoid confusion among consumers.
Examples of companies that have been caught making false claims within their trade descriptions include:
- Forever Living Products – Fined £1.2 million for making false claims about its products. The company had claimed that its products could cure a variety of ailments, including arthritis and cancer. However, there was no scientific evidence to support these claims.
- L’Oreal – Fined €300,000 for making misleading claims about a skin cream product. The claims stated that the product could “Boost genes,” and make skin look visibly younger in just one week, but there was no evidence behind these claims.
- Nurofen – Claims that certain Nurofen products were able to soothe pain in certain areas of the body were found to be untrue. The Advertising Standards Agency banned any adverts which made these claims.