The High Court Tuesday suspended broadcasting and publication of a disputed Ariel detergent advertisement, giving Unilever Kenya temporary reprieve in a commercial dispute.
Justice Jacqueline Kamau said Unilever had demonstrated that it would suffer irreparable damage if the interim orders suspending the adverts were not granted.
“I hereby restrain the first and second defendants by themselves, their servants, agents, employers or advertising agents from running or airing the Ariel One Wash campaign advert in its current form at all media houses and all forms of print and electronic media pending a mention of the case on November 11,” Justice Kamau said.
The order came even as the advertising agency named as one of the respondents in the dispute sought to distance itself from the suit. Unilever has named Geneva-based Procter & Gamble International Operations, Procter Gamble Services Limited and ScanGroup as respondents.
Unilever, which manufactures the flagship Omo washing detergent, moved to court alleging that the Ariel advert that is aired during prime time is non-factual and depicts Omo as a product of lesser quality.
The advert promotes Ariel as the best stain removal detergent “in one wash”.
Tuesday, ScanGroup through lawyer Donald Kipkorir claimed that it is not the agency behind the advert, but Unilever’s lawyer Kamau Karori has strongly objected to Scangroup’s claim, saying it was not based on any filed grounds but had only been made orally.
Unilever had initially sued Procter & Gamble East Africa (PGEA) but the company last month disowned the advert, forcing Unilever to withdraw the suit and institute a fresh case against the parent company and Scangroup.
PGEA said it had gone into liquidation and was thus not in a position to trade in the American transnational’s brand. Procter & Gamble International Operations has instructed its lawyers in Kenya to represent it.
Ariel has been in fierce competition with Omo for a share of Kenya’s laundry market.
Research puts Ariel’s market share at 24.4 per cent and that of Omo at 28.2 per cent, a fact that has possibly alarmed Unilever given that Ariel only returned to the Kenyan market a few years ago, having been thrown out at the turn of the millennium over allegations of dumping.
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P&G supplies the Kenyan market with Ariel products manufactured by its subsidiary in Egypt.
Unilever says the adverts depict Omo as incapable of removing the stains in “one wash”, arguing that the claim is not based on any independent research.
It says the advertisements are in breach of several laws including the Competition Act, the Code of Advertising Practice and Direct Marketing Rules.