The regulatory challenge to branding: An interpretation of UK competition authority investigations 1950-2007

John K. Ashton, Andrew D. Pressey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Branding is a necessary and important business tool. This study, however, examines whether branding can constitute an anticompetitive act. While most markets and firms do not undertake anticompetitive actions, being identified as such can result in a wide range of negative outcomes. To explore this low-frequency yet high-risk outcome, this study assesses how branding has been perceived to be anticompetitive by the UK competition authorities. This assessment is undertaken by examination of all UK competition law regulatory decisions undertaken over the period 1950-2007 by the UK competition authorities. From this assessment, it is observed that branding can facilitate excessive pricing, requires vertical restraints, and can lead to consumer confusion; all potentially anticompetitive acts. The competition regulatory decisions focused on branding issues are demonstrably different from regulatory decisions without branding concerns and involve larger, often manufacturing, firms, which operate in more concentrated markets. It is concluded that comprehension of competition law needs to be disseminated more widely amongst marketing communities and greater reference to business and marketing theory should be made by competition law agencies to assist the comprehension of marketing techniques such as branding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1027-1058
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Marketing Management
Issue number9-10
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The support of the Economic and Social Research Council is gratefully acknowledged. Further we would like to thank Catherine Waddams and two referees for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. All efforts remain the responsibility of the authors.


  • Antitrust
  • Branding
  • Business government interface
  • Competition law
  • Content analysis

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