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Greek Producer of Snacks Fined for Misleading Advertising

Bulgaria’s Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC) fined the Bulgarian branch of the Greek snacks producer - Chipita Bulgaria AD for misleading advertising.
The CPC initiated a claim for misleading advertising on the grounds of the advertisement of the 7 days “Pizzeti” snacks. It was argued that the below described advertisement may lead to a false perception among consumers with regard to the origin and the product’s recipe as the video creates the understanding that the product is Italian and is similar to the famous Italian “Pizza”.
The scenario of the advertisement takes place in a room with dimmed light where a young man dressed in a white vest and suspenders is sitting by a table on which there is yellow cheese. The man is wearing a hat and is holding a chain with a cross which he constantly and nervously transfers from hand to hand. He speaks English with a heavy Italian accent. His whole behavior resembles the behavior of a member of the Italian mafia. The man’s words are translated the entire time with subtitles in Bulgarian. Against the background of the Neapolitan song “O sole mio” the young man tells the viewers about the snack “Pizzetti” which he calls “the honest snack” and that its ingredients are real bread, tomatoes and cheese. He says that those who have refused to try the snack have suffered various tragic injuries. His story is illustrated by footages of those who have had accidents, e.g. feeling dizzy and falling off a high building. The story ends with the words “Eat “Pizzetti” – “Pizzetti”, the honest snack”.
In considering Chipita Bulgaria’s arguments and the legal provisions on misleading advertising listed in Art. 32(1) and Art. 33 of the Bulgarian Unfair Competition Act (UCA), the CPC ruled that the advertisement “7days Pizzetti” creates the impression that the product is of Italian origin. The origins of goods, being one of the main characteristics for finding misleading advertising, plays a main role in the consumer’s behaviour when purchasing goods. Therefore, every element of an advertisement that may create such confusion among consumers is to be considered as substantial. The CPC accepted that the advertisement is entirely built on the Italian language, culture and cuisine and that there is no explicit information that the product is made in Bulgaria. On these grounds the CPC ruled that the advertisement is deceptive in respect to the product’s origin. Furthermore, the CPC found liable both Chipita Bulgaria AD in its capacity as a producer and organizer of the advertisement campaign and Black Cherry AD in its capacity as an advertising agency.
In conjunction with Art. 100(4) of the UCA the fine amount can be up to 10% of the turnover in the preceding financial year. However, in considering the fact that the advertisement was aired for a short period of time and that upon initiation of the proceedings before CPC Chipita Bulgaria AD stopped the advertisement, the CPC set the amount of the fine to 0,1% of the sales in the preceding financial year. The same fine was set for Black Cherry AD.
The decision is currently under appeal before the Supreme Administrative Court which is the final court instance in Bulgaria.
Author: Iana Roueva Madey
Source: Bulgarian Commission for Protection of Competition 

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