Sparks fly in electrical price wars: DSG Retail Ltd v Comet Group Plc

Currys and Comet have a history of litigation and ASA complaints in the price war that defines competition between rival electrical retailers. In a recent pitched battle in the High Court Currys have obtained an injunction to stop Comet from displaying promotional posters containing false statements about Currys prices.

Currys and Comet monitor each other’s prices closely on a constant basis. As the judge put it, they watch each other like hawks. Christmas is the key time for the two electrical giants and last Christmas Comet displayed posters claiming the Comet price was lower than competitors 10% off and £10 off promotions. Sellotaped to the posters were Currys press advertisements.

The judge found that Comet’s price statements referring to Currys were false and that Comet must have appreciated they were false. Comet tried to argue that they were “mere puff” and would not be taken seriously by the public, but the judge drew a distinction between the statements “My goods are better than X’s” and “I charge less than X for the same goods.” Statements about price are inherently more likely to be taken seriously.

Judges have been critical of recent comparative advertising battles in the courts. Comet tried to argue that injunctions are an escalation of the price war that should not be encouraged or the court will become a tool of marketing policy. The judge was not swayed by this: “As has been said on many occasions it is to be regretted the parties to such disputes cannot resolve them without recourse to the courts. But where there is clear evidence of malicious falsehood the court should not flinch from granting interlocutory relief if justified on the facts simply because it represents an escalation of a price war.”

Bulletins are for general guidance only. Legal advice should be sought before taking action in relation to specific matters. Where reference is made to Court decisions facts referred to are those reported as found by the Court. Please note that past bulletins included in the Archive have not been updated by any subsequent changes in statute or case law.