Lookalike Packaging - New Study Shows How This Dupes Shoppers!

16.08.2017 (comments: 0)

tl_files/2017/Lookalike Packaging Image CP.jpgConsumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs) should be enforced say British Brands Group. 

It comes as no surprise that most of us shop on autopilot and many are fooled by products in similar packaging – and there is little we can do about it. New research funded by the British Brands Group and Glaxo Smith Kline (full report here) throws light on how shoppers shop for everyday consumer products and how products packaged to look like familiar brands fool us, prompting mistakes. 

This study is the latest of many studies that consistently find that similar packaging prompts mistaken assumptions and purchase. The Intellectual Property Office, a Government agency, reviewed available studies in 2013 and commissioned its own research, concluding that: There is a lookalike effect. In essence: - Consumers are more likely to make mistaken purchases if the packaging of products is similar and there is strong evidence that consumers in substantial numbers have made mistakes; - Consumers' perceptions of the similarity of the packaging of goods are correlated with an increased perception of common origin and to a material degree. There is also an increased perception of quality; - The lookalike effect increases consumers’ propensity to buy a product in similar packaging.

Similar packaging that misleads shoppers is likely to breach the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs). These however can only be enforced by the Competition and Markets Authority and Trading Standards. Significantly, to date, both have declined to so. As a result products in similar packaging that are likely to mislead go unchallenged. Brand owners find it hard to enforce their intellectual property rights against similar packaging. The pack designs may not infringe trade marks, designs or copyright and a passing off action is very difficult to bring due to the need to demonstrate misrepresentation and consumer confusion to a court’s satisfaction. In 2006, a Government study found that brands are not well-protected against misappropriation in the UK, since when no remedial action has been taken.

The British Brands Group wishes to see the CPRs enforced. If a pack design is found to breach the CPRs, the packaging should be revised to ensure it does not mislead. The product can then go back on the market, preserving consumer choice and fair competition.

John Noble, Director of the British Brands Group, said, “In the cold light of day, it is easy to spot a copy but that is not how we shop. In the supermarket, there are thousands of products and these are everyday purchases. We devote seconds to each and rely on shortcuts to make our choices. Products in similar packaging prey on this, prompting mistakes and encouraging false assumptions. Similar packaging that misleads shoppers is unlawful but goes unchallenged in the UK. That does not serve shoppers or brand owners well.”

Dids Macdonald, OBE, CEO of Anti Copying in Design (ACID) said, “ACID members are no strangers to the look alike packaging problem and it is quite surprising that Government has not taken a more proactive stance on this issue to date. This report provides compelling evidence for a change in the current culture of some competitors who consistently dupe consumers through lookalike packaging and the subject should be reviewed and reconsidered in future IP policy.”

The British Brands Group was founded in 1994 as a non-profit membership organisation. It speaks on behalf of brand manufacturers and seeks to deepen understanding of how brands benefit consumers, society and the economy through the provision of choice, value for money and innovation. It represents its members collectively when commercial and regulatory issues affect the ability of brands to deliver value and to be a positive force in society. It also provides the prime forum for its members on brand-related issues. The British Brands Group is part of a global network of similar brand associations, and is the UK representative of AIM, the European Brands Association, based in Brussels. For more information on the study and the parasitic copying of brand packaging.

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