Ruling Against Hi-Tech Ads Dismissed

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Pakistan’s chief competition authority this month set aside an earlier finding that Hi-Tech Lubricants Ltd. engaged in false advertising in a campaign for Zic-branded engine oils. The final ruling concluded that Hi-Tech’s claims amounted to no worse than puffery.

The Sept. 15 ruling by the Competition Commission of Pakistan reversed an August 2019 preliminary finding by a commission committee in favor of Chevron’s subsidiary in Pakistan, which filed the original complaint in 2018. The initial finding was based on Chevron’s allegations, whereas the latest ruling followed arguments by both companies.

Zic is a brand of South Korea-based SK Lubricants. Hi-Tech, which is based in Lahore, Pakistan, is SK’s exclusive distributor in that country. Some of the products that it sells are imported, while others are produced at its own blending plant.

In a 36-page ruling, the CCP said its analysis focused on three claims in Hi-Tech promotions. Although the promotions were in Urdu, the complaint and the case used their English translations. The first claim translated to “Zic is made of world’s best base oil Yubase, whose [very high viscosity index] technology reduces friction and provides unmatchable performance.”

The commissioners concluded that the statement amounted to puffery. The legal proceedings, puffery refers to promotional claims expressing views that are subjective rather than objective – views that reasonable people would not take literally.

The second claim translated to “That is why not every engine oil is Zic oil, and no engine oil is better than Zic oil.” The commission determined that such statements do not quality as misleading because they do not claim superiority.

“Given the principals enumerated in the case law, it is sufficiently clear that the claim is that of equivalence at best,” the ruling stated. “The plain and simple reading, as would be clear to any reasonable consumer … would clearly mean that the product in question is as good as any other or at the least is not any worse than

The third claim translated as “Get double protection,” which the commissioners wrote “has no real meaning.”

“There is absolutely no indication in the claim itself as to what protection is being referred to,” the ruling said. “Does it mean that the oil will protect the engine parts and double the engine life? Or does it mean that emissions will be halved, increasing the protection for the environment? One can’t be sure, which makes the claim unquantifiable.”

The case had not reached the stage for penalties against Hi-Tech to have been declared.

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