Islamabad: The Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) has disposed of the show cause notice, issued to M/s S.C. Johnsons and Sons for violation of Section 10 of the Competition Act, 2010, upon submission of the compliance report by the undertaking and its assurance of withdrawal of the deceptive marketing campaign of its products.
CCP received a complaint from Reckitt Benckiser Pakistan Limited alleging that S.C. Johnsons and Sons has recently launched a marketing campaign through print and electronic media all across Pakistan for its products under the brand “Baygon” and claiming their brand to be “No. 1 in Pakistan” which is false, deceptive and misleading.
It was also submitted in the Complaint that according to the AC Neilson Retail Audit Survey, the product of the Reckitt Benckiser Pakistan Limited (Complainant) under their brand “Mortein” has an overall market value share of 39.7% in Pakistan whereas S.C. Johnsons and Sons (Respondent)’s products under the brand “Baygon” has an overall market value share of 5.7% in Pakistan.
CCP upon receipt of the complaint initiated an enquiry under Section 37 of Competition Act to investigate the allegation of deceptive marketing practices against S.C. Johnsons and Sons (Respondent). Pursuant to the enquiry report, show cause notice under section 30 was issued.
During the hearing, the Respondents did argue that the claim ‘No. 1 in Pakistan’ at best is puffery* which is not prohibited. CCP while relying on the judgments of FTC observed that a puffing statement is generally vague and unquantifiable, or is so grossly exaggerated that no ordinary consumer would rely on them.
Puffery as a legal term refers to promotional statements and claims that express subjective rather than objective views, which no “reasonable person” would take literally. However, in the subject claim, neither the word ‘No. 1’ nor ‘Pakistan’ in any manner suggest a general impression towards the consumers and can be identified and quantified; hence the claim ‘No. 1 in Pakistan’ cannot be termed puffery, the Commission observed.
Regarding the reasonable basis CCP observed ‘Brand of the Year Award 2010’ was awarded to the Respondent for their ‘Aerosol products’, whereas, in the advertisement, the claim of being ‘No. 1 in Pakistan’ is used with reference to all of the products of the Respondent, even otherwise, just by winning the ‘Award of the Year’ in any particular category from the Brands Foundation, would not entitle any undertaking to make any such absolute claim.
Therefore, in view of the prima facie findings of the enquiry report, which were not rebutted by the respondent, the Commission has observed that the claim ‘No.1 in Pakistan’ lacks reasonable basis’ and was in violation of Section 10 of the Act.
The counsel for the Respondent gave the statement that “He has instructions from his client i.e. M/s S.C. Johnson and Son Pakistan Limited that on high moral grounds the marketing campaign question in the present proceeding/SCN will be withdrawn no later than ten (10) days, starting from today.”
The Complainant’s counsel also made the statement before CCP that he has no objection if the complaint is disposed of in terms of the statement made by the Respondent’s counsel.
Since, all the marketing material was withdrawn from the public domain by the Respondent in pursuance of the commitment made during the hearing; therefore, the show cause notice was disposed of. However, the Respondent was reprimanded not to use the claim in question in its present form in future as it could entail penal consequences.
For more information, contact:
Joint Director (Media and Communications)
Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP)
4-C, Diplomatic Enclave, Shams Gate G-5, Islamabad, Pakistan