Rivals complain about Whirlpool's Indian promo

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BOMBAY -- Whirlpool Corp.'s Indian subsidiary faces yet another setback with an inquiry by India's fair-practices watchdog into its new scheme offering gifts with purchases.

Bombay-based Whirlpool of India's ongoing "Scratch A Gift" scheme, which encourages consumers to buy Whirlpool products along with a card that is scratched to reveal surprise gifts, angered rival refrigerator maker Godrej-GE Appliances into filing a complaint with the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission in New Delhi.

The Whirlpool promotion "would result in monopolizing the trade in refrigerators at the cost of other manufacturers of such items," the complaint stated. The fact that Godrej-GE is concerned is significant, since it leads India's refrigerator market with a 40% share.

Whirlpool's 51% subsidiary is offering purchasers of its products the chance to win a home, two Opel Astra and three Maruti Suzuki 800cc cars, food processors and wall clocks, among two hundred thousand prizes up for grabs.

A print media campaign via J.Walter Thompson Co. shop Contract Advertising, Bombay, this week broke with an ad in The Times of India newspaper. "We've already won over millions of hearts. Now you can get millions in gifts", the headline reads.

The appliance maker courted controversy late last month when it had to pull an ad in the same newspaper, touting it as the No.1 marketer of refrigerators and washing machines in India last year. Protesting the claim as misleading, various appliance makers approached the monopolies commission. Whirlpool withdrew its ad.

The monopolies commission has served notice to Whirlpool against continuing the advertising and implementation of its "Scratch A Gift" offer till February 13. Whirlpool, nonetheless, ran an ad in February 7's edition of The Times of India. It will reply to the notice.

Godrej-GE is a Bombay-based appliance joint venture owned 60% by Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing Co. and 40% by General Electric Corp.,

Copyright February 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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