SDE large fine for 'makeup'


By Isabel Sobral, The State of S. Paulo - 27/01/2005

The Economic Law Secretariat (SDE) of the Ministry of Justice decided yesterday, in Brasilia, to fine six large companies - Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Arcor, Niasi, Oderich and Aloés - for “makeup” of products. The irregularity, verified in the reduction of the quantities sold without clear and transparent information to consumers, was found in products that range from baby diapers, conditioners and shampoos, candies to tomato extract.
The fines imposed by the Department of Consumer Protection and Defense (DPDC) of SDE vary from R $ 177,3 thousand to R $ 472,9 thousand. The punished companies may still appeal against the punishment to the secretary of Economic Law, Daniel Goldberg, within a maximum period of ten days, counting from yesterday when the decision was published in the Federal Official Gazette. The process that resulted in this order dates from 2001 and companies must appeal the decision.

Arcor do Brasil, for example, says that it was surprised by the decision published in the Official Gazette yesterday that had as its motto the reduction of the weight of the Drops Kid s packaging. This process, explains the company, was opened by the agency in 2002 and, since then, “Arcor has provided all the information requested in time and form for the proper understanding and clarification of the case.” The company reports that as it bought the Nestlé brand in the last quarter of 2001 it faced problems with a third party supplier, which led it to import machines in record time to supply the market. In the process, the company claims to have been forced to cut Drops Kid's by two grams.

Procter & Gamble, in an official note, said it had not been officially notified, but highlighted three points: “1) This administrative process is dated 2001; 2) The version of the product mentioned in the process is no longer on the market; 3) At the time, the reduction in the number of diapers per pack was accompanied by a proportional average decrease in price so that the consumer was not harmed.

According to the director of DPDC, Ricardo Morishita, the Consumer Protection Code, which underlies the punishments, is very clear in the articles in which it states that it is a basic right of the consumer to have “ostentatious and clear” information about the change made in a given product.

"The lack of transparency causes damage to the basic right of consumers to choose," said the director. He explained that even if the company proportionally reduces the sale price to the decrease in the quantity offered, there is an obligation of clarity in the disclosure of the new quantity.