12 July 2000

The longstanding ban on comparative advertising was undermined by separate rulings from two French courts that ads for Swedish-owned telecoms operator Tele2 were not unlawful for comparing its lowest prices to those of local rivals France Telecom, Cegetel and 9 Telecom.

Created by the Paris office of J Walter Thompson, Tele2’s No Comment print campaign focused on straight price comparisons showing that its peak period rates were under half those of France Telecom. This, claimed the latter, amounted to "unfair competition" because it only focused on peak period rates, rather than time slots where its prices were less competitive.

In a separate case, another court gave equally short shrift to a complaint by Vivendi-owned Cegetel, which argued that Tele2's ads demonstrating a 25% saving were "illicit, untruthful and likely to lead clients into error." The court disagreed, ruling that the ads met the criteria on comparative advertising – objectivity and fairness – adding that they were clearly focused on identical products.

"The decision has encouraged Tele2 to continue with its comparative strategy," says a JWT spoke, "especially since its rates are the lowest on the market, in practically every time slot."

Tele2, a division of Sweden’s Kinnevik Group, is active in eleven European countries and has attracted over one million subscribers since its French launch in March 1999.

News source: Advertising Age - International Daily