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Hindustan Unilever pleads guilty for violating Legal Metrology rules

A Magistrate Court in Latur levied a fine of Rs4,000 after Hindustan Unilever pleaded guilty under the Legal Metrology Act and Rules


Consumer goods company Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) has been fined Rs4,000 by a Court in Latur in Maharashtra after the company pleaded guilty of violating norms.


On 25 August 2013, HUL, owned by Anglo-Dutch company, Unilever, published an advertisement mentioning maximum retail price (MRP) of one of its product. However, it failed to declare net quantity of the product in the advertisement. This led to a complaint from BP Dhumal, Inspector of Legal Metrology (Weights & Measures) before the Judicial Magistrate.


In his judgement on 29 September 2014, Judge RA Malakolikar, said, "Accused (HUL) is convicted under section 252 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and sentenced to pay a fine of Rs4,000 for the offence, in default of payment of fine, he shall to undergo Simple Imprisonment for eight days."


The Court had issued notice to Pradeep Banerjee, Director of HUL. However, Banerjee filed an application for being represented through a power of attorney (PoA) holder stating that since he resides in Mumbai, he could not be present in the Court at Latur. Banerjee's PoA holder Rajeshwari Shukla orally submitted before the Court that it was the first offence of the company and he will not repeat such type of offence hereafter. He also requested the Court to impose minimum fine.


Judge Malakolikar, in his order said, "It cannot be said that due to the offence of accused, there are any bad influence on the society. Hence, it will be just and proper to show leniency in prescribed punishment of payment of fine. This is a fit case to take some lenient view. Hence, fine of Rs4,000 for the offence will meet the end of justice."


What is interesting in this case is, why a company as big as HUL preferred to plead guilty instead of contesting the claims? There may be two reasons. One, the Unilever subsidy earned a net profit of Rs988.16 crore during the September 2014 quarter and a fine of just Rs4,000 is meagre for them. Secondly, instead of contesting the claims and spending more money on litigation with the Legal Metrology Organisation, they may have thought it wise to plead guilty and get away with a minimum fine.


However, they may be wrong. Inspector General Sanjay Pandey, who is Controller of Legal Metrology (Weights & Measures), while speaking at a Moneylife Foundation seminar, said, his department is raising the issue before the Registrar of Companies, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, and other Ministries. “What we are doing is that we are writing to ROC, Ministry of Consumer Affairs and Ministries that deal with them, saying that ‘look, this company is convicted so for future government deals you better beware," he added.


Essentially, this means that although the sum paid by HUL is trivial, it will have to mention the conviction in all its statutory and regulatory filings. In addition, since the company has pleaded guilty, there is not scope for it to file an appeal and have the conviction overturned.


Our mail sent to HUL remained unanswered till writing the story. We will incorporate their reply as and when we receive it.




3 years ago

My observations regarding violations of Metrology rules do occur in semi literate areas in Mumbai. There you will find that sweet shop owners weigh sweets and other eatables along with the boxes and nobody objects. In this way they are selling the boxes at the exhorbitant rate of sweets. Other products like milk, water bottles, cold drinks etc. are sold above MRP as 'refrigeration charges'. And, road side hawkers do use stones as a substitute for weights. After lodging complaints to the authorities one hears an excuse of staff shortage to carry out raids. God knows when this will end.

Rajesh Kothari

3 years ago

There is hardly any point in their wasting time filing such frivolous suits and becoming happy that they have managed to fine HUL for Rs.4,000/-.

Instead, someone should file case against Department of Legal Metrology asking that they should standardize packing sizes for all consumer items and should make price and mfg should print weight and price details in big & legible fonts - so that even old people with poor eye sight can read it easily.


3 years ago

Sorry, in my opinion in this case, The Controller of legal Metrology ,first should have seized all the stocks of such goods which do not bear the quantity on the pack under the Packaged Commodities Act as they are empowered under the act to do so. The question of prosecution, conviction and punishment follows thereafter.

jaideep shirali

3 years ago

We also need to puncture the 'fairness cream' market, I'm sure Unilever would not be able to sell such creams in most markets outside India. Proving this fairness without "test conditions" would be a challenge. Another MNC once admitted in Delhi courts that its 'antiseptic' soap is just a cosmetic soap, but is merrily making the same old claims. Lifebuoy soap supposedly is the panacea to all ills, "under test conditions" all in asterisks which I challenge any Unilever executive to read in TV ads, one more Unilever product. We need to teach law breakers a lesson, irrespective of their size or power.



In Reply to jaideep shirali 3 years ago

Obviously whiteness creams do NOT work. Otherwise we would be surrounded by fair folk! Moreover whiteness creams make the skin very delicate, it tans easily and ultimately looks darker. I saw my poor servant trying it and explained to him to never waste his money again on such silly, harmful products.


3 years ago

Sanjay Pandey deserves credit for all his initiatives including this one.

It may be noted that all the FMCG companies ( not only MNCs) are guilty of changing the weights with absolute disregard for the consumers. Soaps, biscuits, tooth pastes , shaving creams you name it. I have, in particular, experienced this while buying bathing soaps made by Godrej. They keep changing the number of bars in a pack, moreover, very often a pack contains bars of different weights.This makes it extremely difficult to know the exact cost per gram.

There needs to be standardization of weights in all packed products so that it is easy for the consumers to compare the price while taking a decision to buy. Moreover the font mentioning weight/quantity,the price and expiry date should be such that the consumers can read without a magnifying glass.



In Reply to VIVEK SHAH 3 years ago

Agreed. Dabur has advertisements allover its Chyavan prash but the actual ingredients are written in tiny, illegible letters.

ALL products, whether they are packed as 57 grams! or 570grams! must declare the cost per kilo or 100 or 10 grams as relevant and useful. Supermarkets should write this on shelves to help consumers choose value.

If only they spent less on advtg, models and film stars and more on actual quality ! If I see a product with white folks, I assume it is not for me and will not buy it.

I also want to 'animal free' cosmetics, soaps, etc.

R Balakrishnan

3 years ago

This Co changes the weights in things like Surf and all so frequently that we cannot make a comparison. And non standard weights that too. Wish the fine was replaced by imprisonment of some jokers out there.



In Reply to R Balakrishnan 3 years ago

Stop buying Surf. The internet is full of good recipes for making detergent at a fraction of the cost for clothes, dishes, windows, etc. Plus no added perfume or plastic bits to add to weight.

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