Chennai, Oct 10: Madras High Court has restrained Anchor Health&Beauty Care Pvt Ltd, Mumbai, from advertising its toothpaste 'Anchor White' as number one in the country.
Admitting a writ petition filed by Colgate Palmolive Ltd, Mr Justice V Ramasubramanian granted an interim stay restraining the toothpaste manufacturer from making an incorrect claim that it was the ''first to blend three particular ingredients and the 'only'one to ensure ''all-round protection,'' while lamenting India still did not have a code to regulate unfair advertisement.
In its petition, Colgate Palmolive Ltd submitted many toothpaste companies were producing good quality products in the country.
One company alone cannot claim their product to be number one, it said and sought a permanent injunction restraining Anchor Health&Beauty Care Pvt Ltd from advertising its product as number one toothpaste.
Passing orders,the judge said, ''Unfortunately there is no codified law in India to restrain companies from indulging in a false publicity campaign, except to a limited extent under the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act 1969 and the Consumer Protection Act 1986.'' The judge also cited a phrase made popular by consumer activists ''Every rupee spent on advertisement is a nail on the coffin of consumer's sovereignty.'' In this regard, Mr Justice Ramasubramanian said the advertising industry in the UK had been successful in self-regulation and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) had powers to stop misleading, harmful or offensive advertising.
There are other fora such as Cable Authority and legacy regulators to regulate contents in broadcast media.All broadcast advertisement in UK are vetted before transmission,the judge pointed out. In the US,the Federal Trade Commission(FTC) takes care of false and misleading advertisements,he said.
In an elaborate order,the judge, discussing the Indian scenario, said,''there is no codified law regulating advertisements in India.But there are statutory provisions scattered here and there in several enactments,'' he stated.
The Advertisement Code under the Cable Television Network Rules 1994 did not deal with false,misleading or disparaging advertisement.
''The code seeks to prohibit advertisements offending morality decency and religious susceptibilities of the subscribers.
''Also,the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) is a non-statutory tribunal, the judge added.
''While advertisements are free commercial speech controlled only by reasonable restriction,the consumers are protected by their right to know and receive information. ''Therefore, both rights have to be matched and balanced,'' the judge said.