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link to the Office of Fair Trading

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link to National Assn. of Citizens Advice Bureau

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Advertising, Pricing, Descriptions
|Misleading Advertising | Trade Descriptions |Property Misdescriptions | Product Labelling | Hallmarking | Origin MarkingPrice Indications | Misleading Prices |  | Contacts |


Misleading Advertising

Advertising in the UK is mainly controlled through codes of practice. In the case of advertisements in the non-broadcast media, the Advertising Standards Authority oversees and acts to ensure compliance with the British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing.

The Code is the body of rules the advertising industry draws up and agrees to abide by. In essence, it requires advertisements to be legal, decent, honest and truthful and to be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and society at large.

The Control of Misleading Advertisements Regulations 1988 (as amended) provides the legislative back-up to the self-regulatory system in respect of advertisements which mislead or which do not comply with the conditions under which comparisons are permitted in advertisements.

The Regulations require the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to investigate complaints. They empower OFT to seek, if necessary, an injunction from the courts against publication of an advertisement. More usually it would initially seek assurances from an advertiser to modify or not repeat an offending advertisement.

Before investigating, the OFT can require that other means of dealing with a complaint, such as the ASA system mentioned above, have been fully explored. Action by the OFT therefore usually results only from a referral from the ASA where the self-regulatory system has not had the required impact.

TV and Radio Advertising

Broadcast advertising is also subject to codes of practice. The Office of Communications (OFCOM) is the statutory regulator. OFCOM has delegated its powers to the ASA who deal with all complaints about such advertising. Government policy in respect of this sector rests with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Financial Promotions

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has a statutory duty to ensure that financial promotions are clear, fair and not misleading. The FSA encourages consumers to send in misleading adverts via their on-line reporting system at:

Please click the button to read our Fact Sheet on misleading or offensive advertising.

Trade Descriptions

The Trade Descriptions Act 1968 makes it an offence for a trader to apply, by any means, false or misleading statements, or to knowingly or recklessly make such statements about services.

The Act carries criminal penalties and is enforced by local authorities' Trading Standards Officers.

Labelling of, and the provision of information on, food and drink is the responsibility of the Foods Standards Agency.

on Trade Descriptions.

Green Claims

As well as complying with the Trade Descriptions Act, green claims should provide consumers with useful information about the environmental aspects of products. A Green Claims Code drawn up jointly with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) sets out the standard of information that consumers can be expected to be given about such matters. The code can be accessed on DEFRA’s website

To complement the Green Claims Code more detailed practical guidance has been issued for firms on how to make a good environmental claim. This can be accessed by clicking here

Property Misdescriptions 

The Property Misdescriptions Act 1991 makes it an offence for an estate agent or property developer to make false or misleading statements, in the course of their business, about any of 33 property related matters listed in the Property Misdescriptions (Specified Matters) Order 1992.

The list includes, for example:

  •        location or address;
  •        aspect, view, outlook or environment;
  •        accommodation, measurements and sizes;
  •        physical or structural characteristics.

The Act is enforced by local authorities' Trading Standards Officers.

on Property Misdescriptions

Product Labelling

Product Labelling Schemes

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is the lead Department for co-ordinating product labelling policy and provides the secretariat for an Interdepartmental Group on Product Labelling. The Group has produced policy guidelines on the issues to be taken into account when Government support for new product labelling proposals are being considered.

 Product Labelling Scheme Proposals.

The DTI commissioned research to look at the impact of labelling schemes. Available literature was reviewed and conclusions drawn about which characteristics of labels and labelling schemes were effective in terms of meeting their objectives, and which were not. The effective schemes were also assessed on the ways in which they were effective and the reasons for it. The results are contained in this report.

Report on labelling schemes research.
Annex (questionnaire used).

Footwear Labelling

The Footwear (Indication of Composition) Labelling Regulations 1995 implement EC Directive 94/11 on the "approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to labelling of the materials used in the main components of footwear for sale to the consumer".

Footwear Labelling Regulations.


Hallmarking involves the independent testing and marking of articles of precious metal to indicate they conform to legal standards of purity (fineness). These tests are carried out in the UK by Assay Offices in London, Birmingham, Sheffield and Edinburgh.

The Hallmarking Act 1973 makes it an offence for anyone in the course of business to sell or describe a precious metal article as gold, silver or platinum unless it is hallmarked, subject to certain exemptions including articles below statutorily prescribed weights. The Act is enforced by local Trading Standards departments. It was amended in January 1999 to bring it into line with European law.

Consumer Guide to the 1999 changes to Hallmarking Act

The UK is a member of the Convention on the Control and Marking of Articles of Precious Metals (Hallmarking Convention), which facilitates the cross border trade of independently marked precious metal articles. The UK recognises Convention hallmarks from 12 member countries. Goods marked with Convention hallmarks can be imported and sold in the UK without the need for additional UK hallmarking.

The UK also recognises independent hallmarks struck in EU Member States to equivalent UK standards in line with the European Court of Justice Houtwipper Judgement.

The British Hallmarking Council

The British Hallmarking Council (BHC) is a Non Departmental Public Body set up by the Hallmarking Act, which advises the Secretary of State on hallmarking matters. It also ensures there are adequate facilities for hallmarking in the UK and directs the Assay Offices as to the standards, practices and procedures to be adopted by them in the testing and marking of precious metal items. The BHC can be contacted as follows:

British Hallmarking Council
No 1 Colmore Square
B4 6AA

Tel: 0870 763 1414
Fax: 0870 763 1814


Origin Marking

Generally speaking, there is no requirement in the law of the United Kingdom nor European Union for goods to bear marks indicating their origin, nor is there anything to prevent voluntary origin marking where traders wish to do so.

However, where such marks are applied to goods, the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 effectively requires these marks to be accurate. The Act makes it a criminal offence for a person, in the course of business, to apply false or misleading trade descriptions to goods.

DTI/HM Customs guidance notes for traders on Origin Marking.

Fact Sheet on Origin Marking.


Price Indications 

Price Marking Order 2004 

The Price Marking Order 2004 (SI 2004/102) which came into force on 21 July 2004, covers products, not services, and is limited to sales between retailers and consumers. It requires the selling price, and where appropriate the unit price, of products to be clearly displayed.

Price Marking Order 2004.
(18 pages) Regulatory Impact Assessment

on Price Marking Order 2004.

The Price Marking Order 2004 gives effect to Directive 98/6/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 February 1998 on consumer protection in the indication of the prices of products offered to consumers. The table below shows how the provisions of the Directive have been transposed into national law in the Order

(2 pages) Price Marking Order transposition table.

Price Marking (Food and Drink Services) Order 2003

Following a consultation on the Price Marking (Food and Drink on Premises) Order 1979, and in light of a survey on pricing of soft drinks in bars, restaurants and other establishments, the Department has laid before Parliament the Price Marking (Food and Drink Services) Order 2003, S.I. 2003 No. 2252, which comes into force on 2 March 2004. A copy of the Order is available from The Stationery Office or on line at:

Price Marking (Food and Drink Services) Order 2003.

Department’s response to the consultation.
Survey on pricing of soft drinks in bars.

Other Price Indication Guidance

In addition, there is price transparency legislation covering the information that must be provided:

where costs differ according to method of payment;

when reselling theatre and other tickets; 

in bureaux de change.

Click this button to read our Fact Sheet and FAQs on the bureaux de change regulations.

Review of Directive 98/6/EC on Price Indications

As part of its information gathering work for the review of the Directive, the European Commission has written to Member States seeking responses to a number of questions on the application of the Directive. Following a public consultation on the Commission's questions during September 2002, the Government has now responded.

Consultation document.
Government's response and analysis of responses to the consultation.

Misleading Prices

The Consumer Protection Act 1987 makes it a criminal offence to give consumers a misleading price indication about goods, services, accommodation (including the sale of new homes) or facilities. It applies however you give the price indication - whether in a TV or press advertisement, in a catalogue or leaflet, on notices, price tickets or shelf-edge marking in stores, or if you give it orally, for example on the telephone. The term "price indication" includes price comparisons as well as indications of a single price.

Under the legislation, DTI issues a Code of Practice for Traders which provides guidance on how to avoid giving misleading price indications.

Following an earlier consultation, the DTI has published a revised Code of Practice for Traders, which replaces the existing 1988 version. The new guidelines have been updated to cover new ways of trading including the Internet and factory outlets.

Code of Practice for Traders on Misleading Prices (revised 2005 version).

Hard copies of this publication will be available from the DTI Publications Orderline on 21st October 2005.

Contact your local authority trading standards department if you have a query about enforcement of the law or how the law might apply in a particular case. Contact DTI on policy issues only, not enforcement or individual cases.


DTI Enquiry Unit 020 7215 5000


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Last updated 11 October 2005

Department of Trade and Industry

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