Sam Boal/
High Court

Lidl sues Irish Farmers' Association for defamation over ads about supermarket's own-brand milk

The German-owned chain has told the High Court that the group’s claims are untrue.

LIDL IRELAND HAS told the High Court that allegations made by the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) about the company’s own-brand milk are untrue and defamatory.

The German-owned chain claims that the IFA recently published adverts in the media that contain statements about Lidl, including that its milk is not Irish, that are extremely damaging to its business and its reputation.

It also claims that the untrue allegations contained in the adverts have been repeated by senior IFA figures in media interviews and on the group’s own website.

Lidl Ireland GMBH has issued defamation proceedings against the IFA and its President Tim Cullinan and Vice President Brian Rushe.

The company has sought an injunction under Section 33 of the 2009 Defamation Act prohibiting the defendants from publishing statements to the effect that the its own- brand milk is not Irish, that it is engaged in unlawful and misleading practices and that is has has misled the supermarket’s customers as to the origin of its products.

It is seeking the order on the basis that it believes the defendants have no defence to the claims that is reasonably likely to succeed.

The injunction would remain in place pending the outcome of the full dispute.

Lidl’s action came before judge Senan Allen today, when the company sought permission to serve short notice of the proceedings on the defendants on an ex parte basis.

The company, represented by Martin Hayden SC and Jennifer Goode Bl, says that it sources its own-brand 1 litre milk from Arrabawn in Co Donegal.

It also told the court that milk for its 2 and 3 litre milk is supplied by Strathroy in Northern Ireland, which it says sources its milk in Ireland.

Lidl’s own brand milk is sold under the ‘Coolree Creamery’ brand.

The company said the 2 and 3 litre products are packed outside of Ireland, and therefore cannot carry the (NDC) National Dairy Council logo. However, it said its 1 litre milk cartons are packaged in Sligo and do bear the NDC logo.

It also said that whether or not Lidl milk carries the NDC logo on its cartons does not change the fact that its milk is sourced from Irish farmers.

Lidl also rejects claims by the defendants that it has created “a fake dairy” or “a phantom farm” in respect of its products.

The company further said that it has never represented that its milk comes from a creamery or diary called ‘Coolree Creamery’, adding that the brand is a registered trademark for its own product.

Lidl rejected claims that it has engaged in a branding strategy to drive down prices paid to dairy farmers, who the company said are paid via milk processors for all product supplied.

It claimed that the IFA was aware of these facts and the company said it has asked the IFA to desist making and remove all the untrue statements about it, adding that the group has failed to do so.

The judge adjourned the action to a date in April, after the court’s Easter vacation.

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Aodhan O Faolain