Misleading advertisements: Rs 10 lakh penalty imposed on Sensodyne toothpaste

The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) has ordered discontinuation of certain misleading advertisements of Sensodyne toothpaste within seven days and imposed a penalty of Rs 10 lakh on the manufacturer.

An official release on Tuesday stated that advertisements of Sensodyne products which make the claims ‘Recommended by dentists worldwide’ and ‘World’s No.1 sensitivity toothpaste’ have been ordered to be discontinued within seven days. The authority also directed payment of penalty of Rs 10 lakh.

Advertisements which show endorsements by foreign dentists have been ordered to be discontinued as per the earlier order passed by CCPA.

The CCPA, headed by Nidhi Khare, “recently passed order against misleading advertisements of Sensodyne products which make the claims’ Recommended by dentists worldwide ‘and’ World’s No 1 sensitivity toothpaste,” the statement said.

A spokesperson for GSK Consumer Healthcare, which owns the Sensodyne brand, commented: “The matter is sub-judice. We are a responsible and compliant company, committed to the welfare of our consumers and our products in accordance with the highest quality standards.” Previously on February 9, 2022, the CCPA had passed an order directing discontinuation of advertisement of Sensodyne products which show endorsement by foreign dentists.

The CCPA had initiated suo-moto action against advertisement of Sensodyne products on various platforms including television, Youtube, Facebook and Twitter. The ads show dentists practicing outside India (UK) endorsing the use of Sensodyne products namely Sensodyne Rapid Relief and Sensodyne Fresh Gel for protection against teeth sensitivity.

These advertisements make claims that Sensodyne is’ Recommended by dentists worldwide ‘,’ World’s No. 1 sensitivity toothpaste ‘and’ clinically proven relief, works in 60 seconds’, the statement said.

“After examination of the response submitted by the company, CCPA observed that the two market surveys submitted by the company in support of its claims ‘Recommended by dentists worldwide’ and ‘World’s No.1 sensitivity toothpaste’ made in the advertisements were conducted only with dentists in India.

“No cogent study or material were submitted by the company to substantiate the claims made in the advertisements or indicate any worldwide prominence of Sensodyne products. Thus, the claims were observed to be bereft of any reason or justification,” the ministry said.

With respect to the claim of ‘clinically proven relief, works in 60 seconds’, the CCPA had written to the Drugs Controller General of India, Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) to furnish its comments on the correctness of the claims made by the company.

The CDSCO has directed The Assistant Drug Controller, Licensing Authority, Silvassa to investigate the claims made by the company since the product in question is manufactured under cosmetic license granted by State Licensing Authority, Silvassa.

The Assisting Drug Controller has written to the CCPA stating that the claims made by the company are under investigation and further action will be initiated after the hearing process.

“In view of the communication received from CDSCO and Assistant Drug Controller, Licensing Authority, Silvassa as regards the claim of ‘clinically proven relief, works in 60 seconds’, the matter now remains with Assistant Drug Controller, State Licensing Authority, Silvassa,” the statement said.

Therefore, the CCPA has ordered discontinuation of advertisements of Sensodyne products which make the claims ‘Recommended by dentists worldwide’ and ‘World’s No.1 sensitivity toothpaste’ within seven days and directed payment of penalty of Rs 10 lakh.

Also, advertisements which show endorsements by foreign dentists have been ordered to be discontinued as per the earlier order passed by CCPA, it added.

In the wake of consumer sensitivity around Covid-19 pandemic, CCPA took stringent action against misleading advertisements whereby 13 companies withdrew their advertisements and three companies made corrective advertisements.

Further, to safeguard consumer interest against misleading advertisements and unfair trade practices, CCPA has also issued two advisories.

The first advisory was issued on January 20, 2021 calling industry stakeholders to cease making misleading claims that take advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic situation and are not supported by any competent and reliable scientific evidence.

The second Advisory was issued on November 1, 2021 highlighting compliance with the provisions of Consumer Protection (e-commerce) Rules, 2020 which require every marketplace e-commerce entity to prominently display all information provided to it by seller under Rule 6 (5) including name, designation and contact information of the grievance officer of the seller.

The CCPA has also issued two safety notices alerting consumers against buying goods which do not hold without valid ISI Mark and violating the BIS standards directed for compulsory use by the Central Government.

While the first Safety Notice was issued in reference to helmets, pressure cookers and cooking gas cylinders, the second safety notice was issued in reference to household goods including electric immersion water heaters, sewing machines, microwave ovens, domestic gas stoves with LPG etc.

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