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13 February 2012

Advertising and trading in the Olympic Event Zones – tough regulations now in force

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By Sangeeta Bedi

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The Olympic Games and Paralympics Games (Advertising and Trading) (England) Regulations for the London 2012 Olympics are now in force. These regulations control advertising and trading in and around “event zones” during certain periods whilst the events take place. The regulations are aimed at preventing “ambush marketing” in order to protect the Olympic sponsors who have invested over £700 million in sponsorship thus far. Ambush marketing is essentially where a company or an individual associates their product or service with a particular sporting event – in this case the Olympics – without paying for the rights to do so.

Businesses in or around the designated event zones should not be restricted  from displaying their usual shop signs or window displays as these could not be considered to be ambush marketing. However, all businesses and traders in or around an event zone need to be familiar with the regulations to ensure that they do not fall foul of them. If there is any possibility that they might do, then an application needs to be made to the London Organising Committee (LOCOG) for authorisation.

If authorisation is not obtained and the regulations are breached, a criminal offence has been committed. Importantly, the regulations presume that a director or a senior employee of a company, the owner of a property or piece of land are responsible for the wrongdoing and so it will be up to the individual to show that they did not have any knowledge of the breach or that they took all reasonable steps to prevent it happening. So at the very least, directors, senior managers, owners of businesses and landlords will need to ensure that they have in place a documented policy or agreement that complies with the anti ambush elements of the regulations. Without such a document, it might be difficult to defend a charge of illegal advertising or trading under the regulations which could result in a criminal conviction and a hefty fine of up to £20,000 in a magistrates court or higher still in a crown court.

A final note of caution: businesses and individual traders should not assume that this is not a priority for LOCOG. The sponsorship money is vital to the success of the Olympics and the sponsors will have been reassured that their investment is a good one. Hence there will be significant policing of these regulations by the authorities and, if breached, it is very unlikely that a lenient approach will be taken.

Read more information about the new regulations: http://www.london2012.com/making-it-happen/advertising-and-trading-regulations/further-information/

Corker Binning is a law firm specialising in fraud, business crime and serious crime of all kinds. To find out how we can help you, call Nicola Finnerty on 0207 353 6000.

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