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Alleged misleading advertisement — MRTPC rejects Nirma's plea against HLL

Richa Mishra

New Delhi , April 22

THE Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC) has rejected the applications filed by Nirma Ltd against Hindustan Lever Ltd (HLL), alleging the latter of disparaging its product.

The commission was considering an application filed by Nirma alleging that by way of a false and misleading advertisement, HLL had disparaged its product `Nirma' detergent powder.

Nirma's contention was that the rear side of the package of HLL's detergent product `Wheel' identifies `sadharan powder' with its product. Further, the `three-fold cards' distributed to the various retailers by HLL misled the consumers, which is prejudicial to public interest.

Nirma had sought an injunction against HLL's campaign and order of an enquiry. Musing over the matter, the Commission said, "... In our considered opinion there are no grounds for issue of injunction as sought by the informant (Nirma). We also feel that in overall circumstances, the institution of enquiry by way of notice under the MRTP Act, 1969 is not necessary. Therefore, both the applications stand rejected."

The commission observed that Nirma washing powder is marketed in a bag containing an orange-yellow shade. The word `Nirma' is written in red on the top of the package on a yellow background. Further, a blue lining with white strap borders the package. The earlier package, which was discontinued in July 2001, was in yellow colour with the additional features of stars thereon.

HLL is also engaged in the manufacture and marketing of other products including detergent powder under the brand name `Wheel'. Against the yellow background, it shows `Wheel' in green and a half cut lemon in yellow. On the rear side of the bag are shown a series of pictures out of which the first picture shows a bag in yellow-brownish colour named `sadharan powder' written in red, bordered by a blue lining and a white strap. The colour scheme of `sadharan powder' in red combined with other features - blue lining, white strap — was Nirma's objection, the commission observed.

In addition to the above, the `three-fold card' distributed to various retailers by HLL was stated to contain a comparison with its products which disparages Nirma's product.

While on the first complaint the commission noted that the yellow colour scheme used by Nirma has since been discontinued in July 2001, before the advertisement in question launched by HLL. The advertisement was launched by HLL in August 2001. Besides, Nirma is a leading manufacturer in the market and nobody can associate it with `sadharan' powder. "Therefore, apprehensions in the mind of the informant is unfounded specifically so when the impugned advertisement appears on the rear side of the bag, which occupies the space hardly enough to be noticed," the commission said.

As regards the three-fold card distributed to retailers, HLL has submitted that it is issued to the retailers to participate in the scheme and not passed on to the consumers, the commission noted.

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