Aishwarya Ramesh

Delhi HC restricts airing of Lifebuoy ad that ‘disparaged’ Dettol antiseptic liquid

The ad in question pitted Dettol antiseptic liquid against Lifebuoy soap – two products that have very different uses.

The Delhi High Court has restrained Hindustan Unilever (HUL) from airing ads for Lifebouy soap, which allegedly disparaged Dettol antiseptic liquid. Dettol is a Reckitt Benckiser (RB) brand and the court ruled that the ads in question were prima facie disparaging. The court also said that if no interim relief was granted, irreparable loss and injury would be caused to RB, according to PTI.

Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw, the judge on the case, granted the interim relief to RB, saying that the ad had a "hint of malice" in the manner it dissuades people from using antiseptic liquid.

Additionally, the court took cognisance of the fact that the ‘disparaging’ ad had not been aired since December 2018. According to PTI, the court also noted that HUL was unwilling to make a statement that it would not air the ads until RB’s main plea was decided. The court order noted that HUL was unwilling to give reasonable notice to RB before airing the disputed ads. The order also pointed out that previously, when the Calcutta High Court had restrained HUL from airing its ads disparaging ads of Dettol antiseptic liquid – that prohibition applied across the nation, and not just in that particular state – as ads shown on TV have visibility on a national level. Therefore, the company can't act in contravention of the Calcutta HC order in Delhi, the order said.

RB’s plea opposes the broadcasting of Lifebuoy ads and contended that these ads attempt to dissuage the customer from using Dettol antiseptic liquid (a drug), and ‘unfairly’ compares it to a cosmetic item (a soap.) RB also additionally claimed that Dettol antiseptic liquid was meant to supplement bath soap, when added in water – it is not a substitute for the soap. RB’s plea also claims that HUL was positioning Lifebuoy soap as a substitute for Dettol antiseptic liquid. The Delhi HC has listed the main matter for hearing on June 16, 2020.