Decided on October 10,1994



A.N. Varma, Chairman - (1.) A complaint was received from one Shri Balasundram, partner of Southern India Trading Agency, Coimbatore, against Jyothi Laboratories of Bombay as well as the Director (Commercial Services) Doordarshan Kendra, Madras. The complaint purported to be under Section 36A(1)(x), read with Section 36B(a) and (d), of the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act. It stated that the complainant was engaged in the business of ultramarine blue since 1982 and gained substantial experience in the said line of trade. The brand name of its product (liquid ultramarine blue) "Regaul" was alleged to be very popular in India, specially in the South. Subsequently, the respondent also entered the said field and started manufacturing and selling liquid blue under the brand name "Ujala". As part of a sales promotion drive, the respondent launched a publicity campaign for boosting the sales of its product, advertising it in the newspapers as well as through Doordarshan, Madras. It was further alleged that the advertisement released by the first respondent through the Doordarshan is highly misleading and calculated to disparage the product of the complainant.
(2.) The Commission examined the complaint and on consideration of the same issued a notice of enquiry against the respondents under Sections 36A, 36B(d) and 36D of the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act. The notice of enquiry in so far as relevant for our purpose runs thus : "The Commission has information that the first respondent is engaged in the manufacture of liquid blue in the trade name "Ujala". For the purpose of promoting the sale of "Ujala" the first respondent has released advertisements through the second respondent on Doordarshan, Madras, It has come to the knowledge of the Commission through the information given by Shri M. Balasundram, partner of Southern India Trading Agency, Coimbatore, that the informant is also engaged in the manufacture and sale of ultramarine blue which is sold in the trade name of "Regaul" and which product is also known as "Regaul Liquid Ultramarine Blue." It appears from the information that respondent No. 1 has in its publicity campaign released on Doordarshan given wrong or misleading visual description of the informant's product. The misleading advertisement on Doordarshan shows a blue colour container strikingly similar to the one in which the informant's product is being marketed. Moreover, in the press media also the informant's product is disparaged. From the above facts it appears to the Commission that the respondents have indulged in the unfair trade practice of "disparaging the goods, services or trade of another person" attracting Section 36A(1)(x) of the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act. A copy of the information received by the Commission is enclosed for ready reference.' In response to the notice of enquiry the first respondent submitted its reply, denying the charge that it has in any way attempted to disparage the complainant's product, or that it has otherwise indulged in any unfair trade practice falling within Section 36A(1)(x) of the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act. The plea of the respondent further was that the container shown in the advertisement was markedly different from the container in which the complainant was marketing its product. There was no similarity whatever between the complainant's bottles and those shown on the Doordarshan. At any rate, in the impugned advertisement shown over the Doordarshan all that the respondent attempted to highlight was that only three to four drops of Ujala were sufficient to achieve the desired whitening effect on the clothes washed with that product as against the quantity which is required to be added in the case of other products in circulation in the market. In short, the respondent's case was that no particular manufacturers were intended to be targeted by the respondent in that advertisement. It was further added that as soon as the Commission issued an injunction order in this case under Section 12A on December 12, 1991, the respondent got a letter addressed by its advertisement agency to the Doordarshan Kendra at Madras requesting the latter to stop the telecast of the advertisement until further notice.
(3.) ON the pleas raised by the respondent and the rejoinder filed by the Director-General (Investigation and Registration), the Commission framed the following issues for its consideration by its order dated July 21, 1992 : 1. Whether the notice of enquiry is not maintainable for the reasons stated in the written reply ? 2. Whether the respondents or any of them have indulged in unfair trade practices within the meaning of Section 36A(1)(x) of the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969, as alleged ? 3. If the answer to issue No. 2 is in the affirmative, whether the unfair trade practice as alleged is prejudicial to public interest, the interest of the consumer or consumers generally ? 4. Relief.;

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