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Investigation returns $600,000 to NZ trademark holders

9 November 2016
Release no. 51

Commerce Commission investigation returns $600,000 to NZ trademark holders

The Commission has worked with ANZ Bank to successfully return around $600,000 to trademark holders who were misled about the need to pay an invoice from Swiss company, TM Publisher (TMP).

A Commission investigation found that TMP was likely to have breached the Fair Trading Act 1986 when it sent New Zealand registered trademark holders an invoice about their trademark registration.

The Commission considered that the invoice:
was likely to mislead trademark holders into thinking that they were paying to re-register their trademark when they were actually paying to publish it on an overseas website
failed to clearly inform the trademark holder that they were under no obligation to make payment for the services offered.
More than 280 trademark holders made over $600,000 in payments to TMP’s ANZ account between 10 March 2016 and 9 May 2016 after receiving the TMP invoice.

All of those payments were reversed with ANZ’s assistance. TMP gave the Commission court enforceable undertakings in April 2016 which resulted in the reversal of payments to approximately 110 trademark holders. TMP also agreed to refund other trademark holders “on request.”

Around 55 trademark holders secured their own refunds and about 115 trademark holders successfully requested a refund from TMP after being contacted by the Commission.

Commissioner Anna Rawlings said the Commission was pleased to have secured refunds for affected New Zealand trademark holders but the case also highlighted the importance of checking invoice details before payment.

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“We advise businesses to be careful about any unsolicited requests for payment and to do their due diligence to check the details of the service offered and that the service is in fact something they want. All the trademark holders we spoke to thought the $1,638 fee was for their trademark registration renewal when it was not.”

The Commission has now issued a formal warning to TMP.

“In this instance we were able to ensure that trademark holders received their money back without taking Court action. However, where necessary we will consider seeking the assistance of the Court to prevent harm to consumers from these types of schemes,” Ms Rawlings said.


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