Madras High Court restrains Bajaj from ad disparaging TVS Excel 100

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Chennai: In a major relief to TVS Motor Company, the Madras high court has restrained Bajaj Auto Ltd from continuing the advertisement which disparages TVS’s product TVS Excel 100 by comparing the fuel efficiency of the Bajaj’s product with the TVS product.

Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayan gave the interim injunction for two weeks on an application arising out of a suit filed by TVS Motor Company and ordered notice, returnable by July 15 to Bajaj Auto Ltd (BAL).

According to TVS, in January 2016, it launched its Moped TVS XL 100, which is powered by 100 cc engine – a first of its kind in India, which received a warm welcome and elicited an excellent response from the customers. Recently, while promoting CT 100B motorbikes, BAL through its dealers in Tamil Nadu circulated disparaging leaflets, showroom arch, van displays, carrying mileage comparison and cost saving between CT 100B and TVS XL100 mopeds. BAL claimed the mileage of CT 100B at 85km/L but falsely claimed and disparagingly advertised the mileage of TVS XL 100 mopeds at 40km/L when XL100 moped has ARAI certified average mileage of 69km/L. The advertisement campaign was made to influence the customer not to buy XL 100 mopeds but to prefer CT 100B bikes, TVS added.

The judge said it was the specific case of the applicant that Bajaj’s products were claims to be more fuel efficient than the products of the applicant thereby luring the purchasers to go for the Bajaj’s products in preference, to the applicant’s products. Therefore, the advertisement was alleged to be an abuse of right of advertisement in the market places and the same has to be interfered by this court.

It was further alleged that a false claim was made by Bajaj about the cost saving derived by purchase of Bajaj’s product in comparison with the applicant’s products. Though comparison was permissible in competition, it should be in the benefit of the public. According to the counsel, the advertisement of the Bajaj was only a false statement deliberately made to cause financial damage. The advertisements of Bajaj, who were rival traders, should be within the four corners of the reasonable restrictions in advertising.

“Though this court is not to decide as to whether the applicant’s or the Bajaj’s products is better, in the given circumstances, as an interim measure, an order of interim injunction has to be granted. The point of difference in the two products, according to the advertisement by the Bajaj is that the fuel efficiency of the applicant product is less than 50 per cent of the Bajaj’s product. The Bajaj cannot obviously disparage the product of the applicant.

The test would be whether the impugned advertisement made to disparage the applicant’s product is one which would appeal to a mind of the common man. In this case, the Bajaj has specifically pointed out the specific demerit in the applicant’s product. Though the statement by Bajaj puffing their own product is not questionable, disparaging statement of the applicant would be certainly actionable. However, the same can be dealt with in detail, after Bajaj filed their detailed counter. Therefore, a prima facie case is made out by the applicant.

Since it is only in the interest of public, the Bajaj should not be permitted to continue with such misleading claim. The balance of convenience also finds favour with the applicant. When the public interest is involved, at least temporarily, the action of Bajaj should not be allowed to continue”, the judge added.

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