CONSUMER EDUCATION AND RESEARCH SOCIETY Vs. BRITISH PHYSICAL LABORATORIES
MONO POLIES AND RESTRICTIVE TRADE PRACTICES COMMISSION
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N.C. Gupta, Member -
(1.) THE complainant which is a registered Consumer Association filed the present complaint against the above named respondents complaining, in substance, about the then on-going conflicting advertisements issued by respondent No. 1 and respondent No. 2 extolling the virtues of their respective products for the television industry termed as an "advertisement war" between the two. It has been, inter alia, stated in the complaint that such an advertisement war between these two respondents is against public interest and, in particular, the consumer interest and hence this complaint. In particular, objection has been taken to the advertisement dated May 12, 1989, issued in support of the capacity and sales figures of the televisions manufactured and marketed by respondent No. 1 and the advertisement dated May 12, 1987, issued for and on behalf of respondent No. 4. It has been, inter alia, pleaded that such advertisement campaigns between respondent No. 1 and respondent No. 2 are likely to hurt the business interests of each other and is probably intended to attack the credibility of respondent No. 2 as a manufacturer of TV sets and is an attempt to wean away the general public from subscribing to the shares offered under a public issue floated by respondent No. 2.
(2.) A number of prayers have been made in paragraph 10 of the complaint which are as under :
(i) issue a cease and desist order on respondents Nos. 1, 2 and 4 prohibiting them from publishing such advertisements or indulging in unfair trade practices or to be an agent or party to such unfair trade practices in violation of Sub-clauses (v) and (x) of Section 36A(1) of the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969 ;
(ii) Order respondent No. 2 to provide information regarding respondent No. 4 such as its location, nature of activities, constitution, source of funding and addresses of its office bearers ;
(iii) Order investigation into location, nature of activities, constitution, source of funding and budget of respondent No. 4 as also the names and addresses of office bearers ;
(iv) Order respondents Nos. 1 and 2 to provide the following information regarding CTVs :
(a) number of black and white and coloured sets manufactured for the years from 1985-86 to 1988-89 yearwise, April to March,
(b) number of black and white and coloured sets sold for the years from 1985-86 to 1988-89,
(c) annual turnover yearwise from 1985-86 to 1988-89 ; duly certified by a chartered accountant ;
(v) order respondent No. 3 to place before the Hon'ble Commission such information relating to respondents Nos. 1 and 2 regarding CTVs as has been collected by it through Survey of Households, 1988, and any other relevant survey ;
(vi) if necessary direct respondent No. 3 to collect additional data at the cost of respondents Nos. 1 and 2 for release of correct information to consumers and direct issue of advertisements giving correct information at the cost of these respondents ;
(vii) order respondent No. 4 to provide to the Hon'ble Commission source of information relating to production figures of respondent No. 2;
(viii) to issue appropriate recommendations about respondent No. 4 regarding its conduct, continuance of registration, etc., based upon and flowing from the findings of the Hon'ble Commission ;
(ix) Order for payment of costs to the petitioner. The complainant reserves the right to address the Hon'ble Commission in this matter at appropriate stages of the proceedings ;
(x) Order such other directions and recommendations as may be deemed proper by the Hon'ble Commission.
The matter was referred for investigation to the office of the Director-General (Investigation and Registration) who submitted his report on January 7, 1992. As a result of the investigation, it has been suggested in the preliminary investigation report that in fact enquiry should be instituted against respondents Nos. 2 and 4 for an unfair trade practice within the meaning of Section 36A(1)(x) of the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969. The concluding paragraph of the preliminary investigation report reads as under:
"The BPL has based its data by claiming that the information was derived from a study carried out by National Council of Applied Economic Research. If Videocon had any grievance against the advertisement put out by BPL TV, it could have itself given an advertisement controverting the figures furnished by BPL TV but instead had chosen to attack by taking the help of a non-existent consumer body who could not have spent such a big amount to release an advertisement in support of Video-con. Thus Videocon cannot escape from the consequences of a patently disparaging advertisement put out by respondent No. 4. Hence it is suggested that the Hon'ble Commission may institute enquiry proceedings against respondent No. 2 and respondent No. 4 under Section 36A(1)(x) of the MRTP Act."
(3.) A copy of the preliminary investigation report was sent to the complainant and he was called upon to argue as to whether a case has been made out for a fullfledged enquiry into the matter. We have heard learned counsel for the complainant and are clearly of the view that no case has been made out to issue a notice of enquiry in terms of the aforesaid prayers at this stage.;
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