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blog 14 Mar 2017

Certification marks: false or valid?

The certification mark has been the subject of a number of recent news reports. For example, the Consumers' Assocation has launched an action against the familiar ''checkmarks'' that occur on various supermarket products.

According to the Association, the checkmarks are misunderstood by many consumers. But the use of ‘high quality’ marks also leads to friction between competitors, for example with vacuum cleaner manufacturers Miele and Dyson. Dyson states that Miele uses a misleading and non-existent quality mark. So, how does it work with quality marks?

In the Netherlands, quality marks are not subjected to special conditions; anyone can start their own quality mark. They are mostly developed by foundations, charitable institutions or branch organisations. Think for example of quality marks such as FSC, Fair Trade or the BOVAG. However, commercial companies develop quality marks too, such as the KEMA-mark or the KIWA-mark. When these marks are unfairly used, the managers of the mark must take action upon themselves to stop this.

If it is likely that a consumer buys the product because of an incorrect or misleading quality mark, it’s a case of unfair commercial practises.
Bart ten Doeschate - Trademarks & Designs

But what if a company thinks of a mark itself and starts using it prominently? In that case, the initiative lies with the consumers and the competitors. They can accuse the user of the ‘quality mark’ of unfair commercial practices and ask the judge to forbid the use of the mark. The judge will then have to check if the quality mark shows incorrect and/or misleading information and if the use of the quality mark influences the consumer in their buying behaviour. In other words: if it is likely that a consumer buys the product because of an incorrect or misleading quality mark, it’s a case of unfair commercial practises.   

Bart ten Doeschate discusses the Dyson vs. Miele case during the morning show of NPO Radio 1.

Listen to the interview here (in Dutch)