Removals firm guilty of 'passing off'

Posted: 20th November 2014

MovingIn an unusual case which sounded a warning to small businesses, a family removals firm ended up being taken to the High Court after it inadvertently proclaimed its membership of a trade association online when it was not entitled to do so.

The firm had been a member of the association for nine years and the latter’s logo, which was said to lend prestige to the business and reassurance to its customers of its good standing, was emblazoned on its letters, vehicles, website and advertising.

Following a parting of the ways between the firm and the association, the former set about erasing all reference to the latter from its operations. However, the firm failed to notice that it was still identified as a member of the association on a third party listing website. It said that it only realised the error on being threatened with legal action by the association and arranged removal of the offending listing on the same day.

The association launched proceedings for passing off and was granted summary judgment against the firm. The Court awarded £5,400 in damages to reflect the fees that the association would probably have charged the firm for full membership for a period of two and a half years during which the unauthorised listing appeared.