CCP passes order in the matter of alleged deceptive marketing claims

ISLAMABAD ( STAFF REPORT )

The Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) has passed an order deciding a matter of the alleged deceptive advertising claims by M/s Hi-Tech for its products under the brand name “Zic.”

Chevron Pakistan Lubricants (Pvt) Limited complained to the CCP that certain marketing and advertising claims made by M/s Hi-Tech Lubricants Limited and M/s. Hi-Tech Blending (Pvt) Limited for their lubricant products under the brand name, Zic, were deceptive and in violation of Section 10 of the Competition Act, 2010. Chevron also alleged that the choice of words such as, “behtreen” in Hi-Tech’s marketing claims had created unsubstantiated impression of comparison between Zic and the competing products.

The CCP’s enquiry found certain claims of Hi-Tech carrying the Urdu words, “behtar” and “behtreen” without any reasonable basis and in prima facie violation of Section 10 of the Competition Act. On the enquiry’s recommendations, a show cause notice was issued to Hi-Tech and hearings were held in the matter.

Taking into consideration and analysing the arguments from both sides and in light of the Commission’s previous judgments and the case law from other jurisdictions i.e. America, Australia, and India, the bench held that the above-mentioned claims made by Hi-Tech for promoting its products fell under the category of puffery. ‘Puffery’ is term used to describe wildly exaggerated or vague claims about a product or service that the consumer (in the context) is unlikely to take seriously. Puffery claims are generally allowed and does not warrant enforcement action by the competition agencies, provided that they are not materially misleading.

Moreover, the bench accepted the respondents’ arguments that the Urdu word behtreen also carrying other meanings such as “alaa”, “umdah” or “mumtaz” indicates that the term “behtreen” is general and vague, and not absolute as was alleged by the complainant. Furthermore, the term “behtreen” is not the correct translation of the word “best” in English, which is an absolute term. Nonetheless, the Bench held that only the claims, which are objective, quantifiable and capable of substantiation in terms of characteristics of the products advertised would be actionable under Section 10 of the Act.

Based upon aforesaid reason and in view of the net general impression caused by the claims, the Bench set aside the enquiry report and disposed of show cause notices against the respondents.

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