By Muhammad Luqman
The Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) has slapped a penalty of Rs.10 million on Proctor & Gamble Pakistan (Pvt.) Limited for deceptively advertising its product ‘Safeguard’ as ‘Pakistan’s No. 1 rated Anti-Bacterial Soap’ in violation of Section 10 of the Competition Act, 2010.
The CCP received a formal complaint from Reckitt Benckiser Pakistan Ltd., wherein it was alleged that Proctor & Gamble publicised its product “Safeguard” as “Pakistan’s No. 1 rated Anti-bacterial Soap” in violation of Section 10 of the Competition Act as it lacked reasonable basis to substantiate the claim, spokesman of the commission said.
While referring to the CCP’s public notice published in leading newspapers warning companies to comply with the provisions of Section 10 of the Competition Act when advertising their products, Reckitt Benckiser had alleged that the Proctor & Gamble disregarded the CCP’s warning by running an advertisement campaign for Safeguard, which was not only misleading consumers but also harming the business interests of its competitors.
An inquiry conducted by CCP concluded that the overall net impression of the Safeguard advertisement is that “Safeguard is Pakistan’s No. 1 Antibacterial Soap”, as the word ‘rated’ is written in a significantly smaller font. Moreover, without a clear and conspicuous disclosure, the advertisement campaign for Safeguard as “Pakistan’s No. 1 rated Anti-bacterial Soap” amounts to violation of Section 10 of the Competition Act. On recommendation of the inquiry report, a show cause notice was issued to Proctor & Gamble Pakistan.
After hearing the complainant and respondent, the CCP’s bench passed the order stating the advertising claims must be based on ‘competent and reliable scientific evidence’ particularly if the product involves health and safety claims. Besides, the products must carry clear and conspicuous disclaimer/disclosure along with the claims, which the consumers could easily notice and understand.
CCP order found Proctor & Gamble’s reliance on studies and surveys to rank itself as Pakistan’s No. 1 rated Antibacterial Soap irrelevant, materially false and misleading, in violation of Section 10 of the Competition Act. In addition to imposing the penalty, CCP has also directed the company to inform the public at large the falsity of its advertising claim through appropriate clarification in all Urdu and English dailies and TV channels for a period of one week from the date of this order.
CCP has further directed Proctor & Gamble to file a compliance report with the Registrar of the Commission within a period of forty-five (45) days from the date of issuance of this order.
By Muhammad Luqman