EU law protects critics from misquotes

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BRUSSELS -- Cinemas and theaters will no longer be able to misquote reviewers on billboards or other advertising under a European Union law designed to outlaw misleading publicity.

The legislation, which takes effect in December, specifically bans commercial practices that appreciably impair the consumer's ability to make an informed decision.

The Unfair Commercial Practices Directive will cover promotions that are "likely to deceive the average consumer, even if the information is correct," provided that it is likely to cause him or her to buy a ticket. This includes extracting a positive word or phrase from a review if that paints a misleading picture of the article as a whole. It also will mean that producers must be more careful when using selective quotes in publicity material.

"This is a very far-reaching set of new rules that comes into force in December this year to ensure that consumers can trust the things they are told by businesses," European Commission spokeswoman Helen Kearns said.

The directive aims at harmonizing the underlying principles of consumer protection law across the EU, thus boosting cross-border commerce. Businesses will be able to advertise and market to all EU consumers, while citizens should be able to buy with more confidence.

"We see this proposal as a safety net to protect consumers from unfair practices falling outside the scope of existing legislation," said Jim Murray, director of the European Consumer's Organization (BEUC).
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