Aldi in legal row with Tesco over price comparisons

Supermarket giant Aldi has taken on Tesco in a legal battle over in-store price comparisons.

Aldi has sued Tesco Ireland over alleged infringement of Aldi trademarks in a Tesco in-store campaign involving alleged inaccurate, misleading and unfair comparison of the prices of products sold by the two supermarkets.

The recent use of the Aldi marks in banners displayed in Tesco stores was “the final straw” in circumstances where Aldi had been complaining to Tesco of infringement of Aldi marks since 2009, Aldi director Niall O’Connor said in an affidavit.

Such banners were displayed in recent months at Tesco stores at Rathmines Road, Jervis Street and Parnell Street in Dublin and at Monastervin Road, Kildare, he said. The banners featured the Aldi trademarks related to various products “without any attempt to use those marks for comparative advertising”, he said.

Aldi has alleged Tesco, in its pricing campaign, has failed to compare like with like, mis-stated the sale price of the relevant Aldi product or the Tesco product, and failed to compare the relevant quantity of the Tesco product with an equivalent quantity of Aldi product.

Tesco, for example, compared the price of mint humbugs sold by it and by Aldi and had stated the weight of both bags was 250g, when the weight of the Tesco product was 200g, Aldi claims.

Aldi Ireland had been writing to Tesco Ireland about the issue since May 2009 and said it does not accept Tesco’s position that certain inaccuracies in price comparison, which Tesco said were due to “human error,” did not amount to unfair commercial practices and created no material risk of consumer confusion.

Aldi said it had not been anxious to get involved in litigation and had instead reported the matter to the National Consumer Agency and the Advertising Standards Authority, which was still processing its complaints. However, the recent display of banners featuring Aldi marks was the “final straw”.

The proceedings &were transferred on consent to the Commercial Court yesterday by Mr Justice Peter Kelly on the application of Michael McDowell SC, for Aldi. The judge made directions for exchange of legal documents and returned the matter to July.

Mr McDowell said Aldi Ireland did not accept Tesco Ireland was engaged in competitive advertising. Paul Coughlan, for Tesco Ireland, said his client did not accept there was a recent escalation of the dispute between the sides.

Aldi claims, since about May 2009, Tesco Ireland has been carrying on a comparative advertising campaign in its supermarkets here involving the display of advertisements/shelf labels comparing products on sale in its stores with those of Aldi Ireland and other competitors.

Aldi says it accepts Tesco Ireland is entitled to make use of the Aldi trademark for the purpose of comparing goods with those of Tesco’s, but contends such use must be in accordance with honest practice and must not be detrimental to the Aldi trademarks.


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