BeeMoved: company not liable for passing off for a misstatement on a third party website

The Court of Appeal has held that BeeMoved was not liable for passing off where, without its knowledge, a third party website reverted to old (and incorrect) wording.

02 July 2018

The National Guild of Removers and Storers Limited (the Guild ) claimed that BeeMoved Limited’s (BeeMoved) use of the names ‘The National Guild of Removers and Storers’, ‘the Guild’ and ‘NGRS’ in their advertisements on two websites amounted to passing off. One website was BeeMoved's own website and Really Moving, a third party, hosted the other.

BeeMoved’s website contained the phrase ‘use a removal company who is a member of the National Guild of Removers and Storers’. They were no longer members of the Guild but had not updated the website. The Guild argued that this impliedly represented that BeeMoved was a member and this would cause the Guild to lose membership fees and an immeasurable amount of business. The judge agreed, finding BeeMoved liable and dismissing their argument that the advice was general and did not represent that they were part of the Guild.

In relation to the second website, BeeMoved had supplied information to Really Moving so they could advertise their services on it. The entry had the words ‘Member of NGRS’, which was correct at the time but their membership, ceased in 2010. BeeMoved submitted that they had been unaware that the reference was on the website until they had received a letter from the Guild. Upon receiving the letter, they rang the website provider who explained that the website had crashed and reverted to an earlier version. BeeMoved asked that the wording be removed immediately and it was. The Guild argued that since the wording had originated from BeeMoved, they were liable for passing off. The judge found that BeeMoved had no knowledge of the wording and did not have access to the third party website in order to correct it. As soon as they became aware, they asked for it to be removed. The Court of Appeal was therefore unable to imply BeeMoved’s consent to defer responsibility to Really Moving for representations made on their behalf.

The real question was not about intention or knowledge but rather whether BeeMoved was responsible for the misrepresentation. The Court of Appeal dismissed the argument that the judge erred in his finding that BeeMoved was not liable, and altogether dismissed the appeal.

Commentary

This case highlights the importance of keeping information up-to-date on your own as well as third party websites. If there is inaccurate information on a third party website, proactive efforts should be made to contact the website host to remove or correct the information.

How can Burges Salmon help?

Please contact Jeremy Dickerson, Emily Roberts or your usual intellectual property team contact if you would like to know more.

Key contact

Jeremy Dickerson

Jeremy Dickerson Partner

  • Head of International 
  • Head of Intellectual Property, Media and Sport
  • Defamation and Reputation Management

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