The Hindustan Unilever has been pulled up for unfair trade practice by a consumer forum here which directed it to pay Rs 5.5 lakh to a purchaser of one of its detergents for not giving him Rs 5 lakh prize money according to a scheme launched by it.
The New Delhi District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum held that the scheme was "flawed" for trying to promote sales by lottery and observed that it was time "such offers are regulated and examined before launch by Ministry of Consumer Affairs and a regulatory machinery is created to prevent cheating of the public at large".
The bench presided by C K Chaturvedi asked the ministry to deal with the issue saying "the consumer dispute redressal machinery is not equal to the task. It (consumer forum) cannot prevent. It can only award compensation or direct closure of scheme after the event."
According to the company's advertised scheme, anyone who found a cloth marked '10/10' in a pack of Surf Excel was entitled to win Rs 5 lakh as a prize.
However, the complainant, Delhi resident Nathu Singh Rajput contended that when he had found a cloth marked '10/10' and informed the company about it, he did not get the prize amount.
Hindustan Lever claimed that only those cloth pieces which had '10/10' marking as well as a unique code were the winning pieces entitling a person to the prize amount.
It had said only four such pieces were sent out in its detergent packs and as a result, various claims of people having '10/10' marked cloth but without the unique code have been filed in consumer forums across the country.
The forum noted that Hindustan Lever had not denied that the complainant had purchased their product, but was disputing genuineness of the swath.
It dismissed Hindustan Lever's contention saying, "We are of the view that opposite party (the company) has only created a well-designed facade or make-believe world of code, laboratories testing etc..."
The forum questioned as to why cloth pieces with '10/10' marks were put in several packets of Surf Excel if only four packets out of lakhs were to qualify for the prize.
"The opposite party indulged in unfair trade practice by launching a flawed scheme with a view to promote sales by lottery, not fair to all," it said, reiterating its order given in a similar matter earlier.