SC rejects HUL plea in ad row with Colgate

Written by Indu Bhan | Indu Bhan | New Delhi | Updated: Apr 12 2014, 09:54am hrs
The Supreme Court on Friday rejected Hindustan Unilever's (HUL) plea challenging the Delhi High Court's December 10 order that directed it to change its television commercial for Pepsodent Germicheck and not to print any advertisement that disparages FMCG major Colgate-Palmolive (India)'s Colgate Strong Teeth (ST).

A bench headed by Justice SS Nijjar upheld the HC's December 10 order that restrained HUL from publishing the impugned print advertisement or any other similar advertisement which disparages Colgate ST or any other product of the FMCG major. While the division bench of the HC asked the company to change some portions of the TV ad, it said that the impugned TV commercial cannot be stated to be per se disparaging Colgate ST.

In a bid to harp on the benefits of its relaunched Pepsodent Germicheck Plus Superior Power, HUL launched a television campaign by comparing the germ checking power of both Pepsodent and Colgate toothpaste on August 9 last year. 'Pepsodent Germicheck Plus Superior Power has 130% the germ attack power of Colgate Strong Teeth at 4 hours after brushing, claimed HUL's ad in its communications.

HUL, the subsidiary of UK-based multinational Unilever PLC, in its TV advertisement had claimed that the new Pepsodent Germicheck Toothpaste provided higher delivery of Triclosan in the mouth even after four hours of brushing.

While HUL enjoys 24% market share, its rival company Colgate has more than 50% in oral care products.

Senior counsel KK Venugopal and counsel Sameer Parekh argued that HUL had test reports from two independent laboratories of repute namely, Intertek, UK and Lambda of India to support its claims made in the advertisements.

In response to the comparative advertisement, Colgate-Palmolive (India) had dragged HUL to the HC alleging that the ad seriously dented its market share and was detrimental to its reputation.

The single judge of the HC had refused to hold that the impugned TV ad or the printed advertisement by HUL was disparaging of or denigrating the product Colgate Strong Teeth at this stage and it was not possible, without further evidence being led in the matter, for it to come to a definite conclusion regarding violation.