Indian regulator forces ad changes

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BOMBAY -- Reckitt & Colman of India has dragged Lever Johnson, an equally owned joint venture of Unilever's Hindustan Lever subsidiary and S.C. Johnson Co., to India's monopolies authority for allegedly using misleading claims in its advertising.

Acting on a complaint filed by Reckitt, the New Delhi-based Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission has asked Lever Johnson to modify ads that claim its Domex surface cleanser "Cleans, kills 100% germs".

Reckitt says Lever Johnson's TV commercials and the product's labeling for Domex misled consumers by claiming total eradication of germs when the surface cleanser launched into the $39m market. However, small print on the Domex label's other side said that germs were killed 100% only when the product was used undiluted, says Reckitt, adding that the TV commercial showed it being used diluted with water.

Censured by the monopolies authority, Lever Johnson has agreed to change advertising to include prominent mention of Domex's 100% germ-free benefit only when used undiluted. The product's label will also state the fact in bold print.

Lever Johnson plans to launch a range of surface-specific cleansers, air purifiers and disinfectant surface cleansers in a nascent cleanser market whose annual per capita spend is 22 cents in rural areas and 83 cents in cities and towns. The marketer's campaign includes creating awareness to convert users of unbranded products to Domex and also by harping on Domex's proven track record overseas.

Copyright June 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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