Can I sue a competitor in business?
Dear Mirror Lawyer, What constitutes unfair competition in trade or commerce?
Please lawyer, can I sue a competitor in business who employs ‘guerrilla tactics’ to drive my customers away so that she can benefit and have the upper hand in the trade?
Abena Ampadu, Okaishie, Accra
Dear Abena, In law, there is what is termed as ‘Unfair Competition’ which is any practice that causes economic harm to a business or trade through a deceptive or wrongful business practice; and it may take many forms including trademark infringement, false advertising, unauthorised substitution, misappropriation of trade secrets, false representation, damage of another person’s goodwill and reputation, among others.
In Ghana, the Protection against Unfair Competition Act, 2000 (Act 589) states clearly in Section 4 as follows:
“Any false or unjustifiable allegation in the course of industrial or commercial activities that discredits or is likely to discredit another person’s enterprise or its activities, in particular, the products and services offered by that enterprise, constitutes an act of unfair enterprise”.
It may occur with regard to the manufacturing process or product, the quality or quantity or other characteristics of a product or service, the conditions in which a product or service is offered or provided, the price of a product or service or the manner in which the price is calculated.
Generally, the law recognises the right of every person to earn a living or to ply a trade. Anyone engaging in a trade or business has the likelihood of attracting competition which in the end can be beneficial especially to the consumer/customer.
However, in some instances competition can turn unhealthy and, if not handled carefully, may end up in litigation dragged before the law courts.
If you opt to go to court to assert your right in situations like this, you will be required to prove that the defaulting party has indeed, by her words or acts, adversely affected your trade or business. You may then ask for a court order against your competitor in the form of a perpetual injunction to stop her from saying things that will discourage people from patronising your business.
You also have the right under law to ask for compensation from her in the form of damages for the harm she has caused to your business by her act or conduct. Alternatively, if her conduct includes statements that are likely to defame you and injure your hard-won reputation in the eyes of your customers who are right thinking members of the society, you could also sue for damages for defamation.