Language lessons: Russian retailers sued for English ads

Moscow’s largest department store TSUM has been put on trial over language issues.

The claimants – the Federal Anti-Monopoly Agency – are trying to prove that TSUM violated Russian legislation by using the English word “sale” in its advertising.

Officials refer to the federal law on advertising, according to which all foreign words used in promotion materials should be translated into Russian. In that particular case, the officials say, the Russian alternative to the word “sale” was more appropriate.

TSUM is also accused of omitting important information about the goods in its advertising, as well as the conditions of purchase and use.

If the court rules against it, TSUM – one of the most luxurious department stores in the capital – will have to pay up to $20,000.

The regulation about the use of Russian language in advertising has been in place for some time.

Back in 2008, Prime Minister Putin pointed to the excessive amount of adverts in English placed around Rostov-On-Don, which he was visiting.

Officials started to look into the matter and, as a result, launched 60 cases against business owners, most of which had to do with the unlawful use of the word “sale”. In Moscow alone, 10 such cases were launched in the past two years.

The most popular English words that are used incorrectly are “sale”, “discount”, and “new collection”. A well-known Japanese cuisine chain also got into trouble for “Happy New Menu”. Another restaurant used the seemingly innocent word “Halloween” in its promotion.

Consumer rights activists, meanwhile, side with the retailers. The word “sale,” they say, is clear to most people, while the word “discount” has been used inthe Russian language for so long that it is perceived as Russian.

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