New European Directive Outlaws Misquotes of Critics

News   New European Directive Outlaws Misquotes of Critics A new European Union directive — EU Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (UCPD) — has come into force in Britain (from May 26) and places a duty on businesses not to trade unfairly by omitting important information or making misleading statements.

The West End theatre world is specifically affected: Under the new law selective quotations from reviews that are used to entice theatregoers to book tickets could be included in this directive if they falsely represent the actual tenor of the review.

In total there is a ban on 31 specific practices, under which commercial practice is regarded as "misleading if it contains false information and is therefore untruthful, or in any way, including overall presentation, deceives or is likely to deceive the average consumer," in ways that might distort their economic behavior.

Daniel Astaire, from Westminster Council's community protection and licensing department, said in a newspaper report in the Evening Standard, "West End theatre is world-renowned. It is vital to maintain this reputation. We will approach producers to warn them of possible breaches and ask them to desist if we feel there is malpractice. If such advice was ignored, only then would we consider action."

Richard Pulford, chief executive of the Society of London Theatres, said, "The implication is members are doing something now that in the light of this directive will be against the law. But there is very little chance indeed of current practice leading to any problems."

A "gentlemen's agreement” is currently in place between West End producers and the Critics' Circle, who represent London theatre critics, and when a critic feels he or she has been misquoted, the matter is taken up by the Critics' Circle with the producers. Now, however, there are direct statutory provisions to encourage producers to be more careful with how they use those quotes.

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