The Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) has passed an order imposing 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 order has been passed by a two-Member CCP bench comprising of the Chairperson Vadiyya Khalil and Member Ikram Ul Haq Qureshi.
CCP Inquiry and Decision
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 a violation of Section 10 of the Competition Act. On the 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.
The 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, misleading and 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.
The 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.
Rival Brand Reckitt Benckiser Lodges Complaint
It is worth mentioning here that the CCP received a formal complaint against P&G from its rival company Reckitt Benckiser Pakistan Ltd., wherein it was alleged that Proctor & Gamble publicised its product “Safeguard” as “Pakistan’s No. 1 rated Anti-bacterial Soap” even though it lacked reasonable basis to substantiate the claim.
While referring to the CCP’s public notice published in leading newspapers which warned companies to comply with the provisions of Section 10 of the Competition Act when advertising their products, Reckitt Benckiser alleged that 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.