Dunnes Stores head Margaret Heffernan ignored complaints by rival supermarket giant Aldi alleging her company was carrying on a misleading comparative advertising campaign in "flagrant" breach of the relevant laws, the Commercial Court has been told.
Michael McDowell, counsel for Aldi, said Dunnes acted unlawfully in how it carried out a comparative advertising campaign he said was aimed at trying to staunch a “haemorrhage” of customers to Aldi and Lidl in the “highly competitive” supermarket trade.
Dunnes seems to feel it had done nothing wrong and Aldi feared that, if it got “the green light” for such behaviour, it would immediately resume it, counsel added.
Michael Howard, counsel for Dunnes, said he was concerned that such remarks were about “thrashing” Dunnes Stores.
Mr McDowell said he was not thrashing Dunnes but was telling the court what had happened and he was entitled to raise matters relating to Dunnes’ “state of mind”.
Mr Justice Brian Cregan said he would grant Mr Howard’s request to be permitted make a brief statement of Dunnes’ response to the claims today after Mr McDowell concludes his opening of Aldi’s action. In its case, Aldi alleges Dunnes had, on dates unknown and on dates in October and November 2013, put up banners and labels in several stores across the country conveying the “completely misleading impression” various Dunnes products were cheaper than equivalent Aldi products.
It alleges Dunnes compared a series of products, including oranges, yoghurts, cosmetic creams, shower gel, tomato ketchup, and dog food, which were not comparable on grounds including that the weights or quality differed. Inferior products were compared with Aldi products and objective differences were not drawn to the attention of customers, he said.
Dunnes denies the claims and disputes the meanings Aldi attributes to various banners and shelf labels displayed in its stores.
Mr McDowell argued that Dunnes had acted in flagrant breach of Irish and EU legislation governing what can and cannot be said and done in comparative advertising. Aldi had made several complaints to Dunnes management, including Mrs Heffernan, and took this action when Dunnes failed to acknowledge or respond to those complaints, he added. The cases &is listed to run for six days.
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