Lloyds accused of 'guerilla tactics' by pet insurer

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The Independent Online

A small Hampshire insurance broker is taking on one of the big high street banks over what it calls "sharp practice marketing".

A small Hampshire insurance broker is taking on one of the big high street banks over what it calls "sharp practice marketing". Healthy Pets Insurance has complained to Lloyds TSB that it is unfairly using the phrase "healthy pets" in its internet publicity, causing unnecessary confusion.

Mark Effenberg, chief executive of Healthy Pets, based in Petersfield, Hampshire, said: "Lloyds TSB's activities are not illegal and there is no trade mark infringement, but some of our customers think we have been taken over by Lloyds TSB. Neither of us wins, and we shall keep on complaining."

Mr Effenberg's grouse is that anyone entering "healthy pets insurance" in the popular msn.co.uk search engine finds the first three entries are sponsored, which means they are paid for by the companies in question. Two, More Than and Direct Line employ their own advertising slogans but the third calls itself simply Lloyds TSB Healthy Pet Insurance. Only More Than and Direct Line are sponsored sites for that phrase on the Yahoo search engine, and there are none on Google.

"It's the title I object to," said Mr Effenberg. "We cannot register the words 'healthy pets' because they are too generic, but it is a threat to our business."

He has complained to Lloyds TSB, which has replied that as it is doing nothing illegal it sees no reason to change. A Lloyds TSB spokeswoman said: "We use phrases that would spring to mind when looking for pet insurance. We don't use words that are patented."

Mr Effenberg says he is consulting lawyers to see if he has any other options. He said: "It's very poor business practice for such a large company to be employing. It's guerrilla tactics."

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