Islamabad   -   The Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP), in a detailed order, has set aside the enquiry report and disposed of show cause notices issued against Hi-Tech Lubricants and has held that no case is made out against Hi-Tech Lubricants for engaging in deceptive marketing practices. The enquiry against Hi-Tech Lubricants was conducted by the officers of the CCP pursuant to a complaint filed by Chevron in 2018. Chevron’s complaint alleged that Hi-Tech Lubricants had made unsubstantiated product superiority claims in relation to advertisements aired in 2017, which allegedly violated Section 10 of the Competition Act, 2010.

The CCP’s order holds that the doctrine of puffery has already been accepted as a defence in the context of marketing practices in the previous orders of the CCP. The CCP did not accept Chevron’s argument that this principle was not applicable in Pakistan. After a detailed review of the previous orders of the CCP as well as judgments from other major jurisdictions, the CCP held that a standalone statement of being the “Best” may constitute puffery subject to the net general impression of the advertisement. On the basis of this test, the CCP found that the mere use of the word ‘Best’ in ZIC’s advertised statement—“ZIC banta hai duniya ke behtreen base oil YUBASE se” (ZIC is made of world’s best base oil YUBASE)—was not sufficient to claim that itwas a deceptive advertisement (as alleged by Chevron). Similarly, the CCP held that ZIC’s statement that “ZIC se behter koi engine oil nehi” (no engine oil is better than ZIC) was not a superiority claim and was a statement of equivalence.

In conclusion, the CCP held that the case against Hi-Tech Lubricants was not made out under Section 10 of the Competition Act, 2010 and set aside the enquiry report and disposed of the show cause notices against Hi-Tech Lubricants. Before the CCP, Hi-Tech Lubricants and Chevron also made detailed arguments about ZIC’s products as well as various awards received by ZIC (including PakWheels People Choice Award for Most Popular Car & Bike Engine Oil). However, given the order on the puffery argument, the CCP did not consider it necessary to review the reasonability of the basis of the statements made by Hi-Tech Lubricants in the advertisements. Hi-Tech Lubricants was represented in the proceedings before the CCP by Mr Umer Akram Chaudhry, Advocate, of Raja Mohammed Akram & Co. while Chevron was represented by Mr Shahbakht Pirzada, Advocate, of RIAA Barker Gillette.