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Which? challenges 'British' brands

Some high-profile brands are misleading consumers with country-of-origin "claims" that bear little resemblance to the reality, a consumer group has said.

Which? magazine singled out carmaker MG, Accurist watches and Rimmel cosmetics as "British" products that are at least partly made elsewhere, while Chrysler and Renault also ran marketing campaigns emphasising their respective American and French roots while partly or wholly making the cars in other countries.

A survey of 1,839 Which? members found 60% took a product's country of origin into consideration when judging its quality.

The poll found 75% believed an ad for the MG6 Magnette, which is made in Britain and China, implied that it was entirely made in Britain with a description of it as the "most British of sporting saloons".

MG disagreed that it had implied that the car was made entirely in Britain, telling Which?: "The advert highlights the high levels of equipment fitted in the MG6 Magnette as standard, which on many German saloon cars would be additional equipment that customers would have to pay for. The advert is all about value for money."

An Accurist ad featuring the tagline A Timeless British Classic left 83% of those polled believing this implied that the watch was made in Britain, when it was actually made in China and Japan, while 68% said they would feel misled if they bought it and found out it was not made in Britain.

Accurist responded: "We refute any suggestion that the advertisement implies that the watch featured, or any of our watches, are made in the UK. The use of A Timeless British Classic accurately reflects our position as a British brand and has been approved by (advertising advice body) Clearcast."

Cosmetics brand Rimmel also confused those polled with its "truly British" range called "The Brit Collection", with 48% saying they would feel misled if they found out the products were not made in Britain. Rimmel products are made in Britain, Italy, Spain and China.

Rimmel said: "The Rimmel London Brit Collection ad does not claim that the featured products are made in Britain. The products featured are all developed and designed in the UK, and all creative ideas take place in the UK. The products are inspired by British trends and culture."

But Which? responded: "We think it's a stretch to suggest that the Rimmel London make-up range is 'truly British' when the eye pencil was made in Italy, the nail varnish in Spain, and the eyeshadow was made in China. Only the mascara and lipstick were made in the UK."

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