Your commercial news round-up: Manchester City, Tesco v Lidl, recession, Google’s chatbot, McDonald’s

updated on 09 February 2023

Reading time: four minutes

Turkey was hit by a magnitude 7.5 earthquake that struck near the city of Gaziantep in the early hours of the morning on Monday 6 February. At the time of writing, the death toll in Turkey and Syria had passed 17,000. If you’re able to, there are several ways you can help. The Disaster Emergency Committee launched a campaign to raise funds to help provide emergency aid and rapid relief and the British Red Cross has also launched an appeal for both Turkey and Syria.

As we continue to read about the ongoing rescue efforts, we’ve put together a short summary of five commercial news stories that should be on your radar for this week’s round-up.

  • Footballing giant Manchester City has been charged by the Premier League after claims it breached the league’s financial rules across nine football seasons. The club has been accused of failing to provide accurate financial information, with a particular focus on “its revenue (including sponsorship revenue), its related parties and its operating costs”. Not providing “full details” regarding manager and player remuneration are also included in the alleged breaches. The four-year investigation, which started in 2018, has also seen Manchester City accused of not cooperating. The club will be unable to appeal the allegations this time around. Lord Pannick KC of Blackstone Chambers, who’s described as “one of the UK’s most highly regarded advocates”, has been appointed to defend the six-time Premier League champions.
  • The yellow circle on Tesco’s ‘Clubcard prices’ stickers and Lidl’s main logo is at the centre of a High Court battle between the two supermarkets. Late last year, Tesco won an appeal over trademarks against Lidl, with the case now being considered in High Court. Lidl had alleged that Tesco’s Clubcard prices logo was too similar to Lidl’s logo. Benet Brandreth KC, representing Lidl, referenced Tesco’s consumer research in court earlier this week, stating that it “shows a proportion of consumers” making the same connection between the Clubcard prices promotion and Lidl’s brand, according to the Law Gazette. Representing Tesco, Hugo Cuddigan KC said that the Lidl logo wasn’t “recognised as significantly artistic” to be a protected work. The battle between the two supermarkets continues.
  • The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) has predicted that the UK could narrowly avoid recession, with the economy predicted to grow 0.2% in 2023 and 1% in 2024. Despite this forecast, NIESR has said that for many households it will feel like a recession; in fact, it’s predicted that one in four UK households would be unable to fully cover the costs of their food and energy bills in the 2023-24 financial year. Middle-income households are also expected to face a hit of between 7% to 13% to their disposable income.

    That said, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Bank of England (BoE) have both forecasted a UK recession; the BoE has said it’ll be shorter and less severe than previously predicted and the IMF has said it expects the UK economy to perform the worst in relation to other advanced economies, including Russia. As you can see, there are mixed predictions doing the rounds, so make sure you stay on top of who’s saying what and what it might mean.
  • This week, multinational tech company Google launched its own artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot, Bard, which will rival OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Sundar Pichai, the chief executive of Google’s parent company Alphabet, said: “Bard can be an outlet for creativity, and a launchpad for curiosity, helping you to explain new discoveries from NASA's James Webb Space Telescope to a nine-year-old, or learn more about the best strikers in football right now, and then get drills to build your skills.” Google’s Bard will be powered by LaMDA – its conversation technology – and will be released with the “lightweight model version of LaMDA”, which requires less computing power “enabling us to scale to more users, allowing for more feedback”, Pichai said. He added: “We’ll combine external feedback with our own internal testing to make sure Bard’s responses meet a high bar for quality, safety, and groundedness in real-world information.”
  • McDonald’s has signed an agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which commits it to several measures that aim to better protect employees in the UK, including a “zero tolerance” approach to sexual harassment, anti-harassment training and improvements to policies regarding how it responds to complaints. This legally binding pledge comes after the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) raised concerns over a “toxic culture”, following more than 1,000 UK cases reported in 2019. The fast-food chain’s Chief Executive Alistair Macrow has said it’s “hugely important” that employees feel “safe, respected and included at all times”. In 2021, it also said workers around the world would be required to complete anti-harassment training following around 50 employees globally filing charges against the chain relating to alleged physical and verbal harassment.

Check the News every Thursday for this weekly commercial news round-up.

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