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Type of Litigation: Enforcement Action by a Private Individual or Private Entity

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Dir. of CPI of SIC v. Coltabaco S.A.S. et al. [Colombia] [December 27, 2019]

In 2017, the Directorate of Consumer Protection Investigations of the Superintendency of Industry and Commerce ("SIC") opened an investigation following a complaint to prompt SIC to stop IQOS marketing.

SIC dismissed the complaint after taking the following into consideration:

- The Ministry of Health asked for IQOS products to be treated as tobacco products.
- SIC focused on the fact that only the tobacco sticks for heated tobacco products, as opposed to the IQOS device, are mandated to have health warnings.
- According to the SIC, IQOS does not fall under the authority of the tobacco control law in Colombia (Law No. 1335).
- IQOS marketing practices have not violated consumer protection regulations in Colombia.

Nicolás Parra Castro v. Superintendency of Industry and Commerce (Second Instance) [Colombia] [November 14, 2019]

The plaintiff, a member of “Educar Consumidores” NGO, filed a lawsuit to order the Superintendency of Industry and Commerce (SIC) to inspect, monitor, and control the advertising and promotion of tobacco products and their derivatives. Specifically, the plaintiff requested that the judges order SIC to demand that Coltabaco and Philip Morris Colombia withdraw all advertising of IQOS devices. In the first instance, the Court denied the claim because the norms invoked by the plaintiff did not contain an imperative and enforceable mandate against the defendant. On appeal, the Court confirmed the previous decision since it also understood that the cited norms -although they established the general prohibition on the advertising and promotion of tobacco products and their derivatives - did not create a clear and concrete obligation that corresponded specifically to SIC.

Nicolás Parra Castro v. Superintendency of Industry and Commerce (First Instance) [Colombia] [September 25, 2019]

The plaintiff, a member of “Educar Consumidores” NGO, filed a lawsuit to order the Superintendency of Industry and Commerce (SIC) to inspect, monitor, and control the advertising and promotion of tobacco products and their derivatives. Specifically, the plaintiff requested that the judges order SIC to demand that Coltabaco and Philip Morris Colombia withdraw all advertising of IQOS devices. In this case, the first instance, the Court denied the claim because the norms invoked by the plaintiff did not contain an imperative and enforceable mandate against the defendant.

National Committee for Tobacco Control v. S.A. Philip Morris Products, et al. [France] [May 15, 2019]

The National Committee for Tobacco Control (CNCT) filed a lawsuit against Philip Morris Products (Philip Morris) and Ducati Motor Holdings (Ducati) to prevent the companies from using their "Mission Winnow" trademark at an upcoming Grand Prix event in France (French motorcycle Grand Prix at Le Mans) because it would amount to unlawful tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. CNCT also sought disclosure of the partnership agreements between Philip Morris and Ducati.

In its decision, the Le Mans High Court agreed that:

- The colors of the “Mission Winnow” project and its logo clearly recall the Marlboro cigarette brand that has long been associated with motorsports.
- Professionals of the sector knew that the “Mission Winnow” project only conceals sponsorship actions from a tobacco manufacturer.
- The “Mission Winnow” name and logo constitute some reference, although indirect, to tobacco and in particular to the Marlboro brand and its owner, Philip Morris.
- The violation of provisions in the Public Health Code is sufficiently obvious that the use of the “Mission Winnow” logo or even the existence of the project, as well as the partnership agreement with Ducati, can be questioned under the law.

    As a result of these findings, the Court prohibited either company from using the mark, logo or expression “Mission Winnow” under penalty of €10,000 for each violation, and ordered Philip Morris and Ducati to pay €10,000 to CNCT. Additionally, the Court granted CNCT's request for disclosure of the partnership agreement.

    IQOS hidden self-advertising decision [Italy] [December 19, 2018]

    Philip Morris International’s Italian affiliate company Philip Morris Italia S.r.l (PMI) was found guilty of a breach of the Consumer Code as a result of 'hidden advertising.' There were a number of magazine articles that appeared in various publications in Italy, which on their face were about other subjects (e.g., how to freshen up a used car, how to cook at the right temperature), but also used part of the article to extol the virtues of IQOS. The Italian Competition Authority held that this was a violation of non-transparent advertising and was in breach of the Consumer Code. PMI was fined 500,000 Euros (the maximum), and the publisher was fined 50,000 Euros.

    J. Anbazhagan v. Union of India [India] [April 26, 2018]

    J. Anbazhagan, a member of the legislative assembly in the State of Tamil Nadu, filed a writ petition to highlight the illegal manufacture and sale of gutka and pan masala in the state and to urge the High Court of Madras to order an independent investigation into the matter. Mr. Anbazhagan alleged such sales were carried out in collusion with several high dignitaries and bureaucrats, such as central excise officials, central government officials, officials from different state governments, including the Government of Tamil Nadu, councilors of the Chennai Corporation, and officials of the food safety department, among others. The Court observed that it was compelled to take up the case as the issues involved the right to health and directed that the Central Bureau of Investigation investigate the matter, since, among other reasons, central government officials allegedly were involved.  In response to arguments made by the respondents, the Court also clarified that the definition of “food” under Section 3(j) of the Food Safety Act includes any substance, whether processed, partially processed or unprocessed, which is intended for human consumption and that the definition undoubtedly was wide enough to include gutka, and other forms of chewable tobacco/nicotine products intended for human consumption. The Court further clarified that India’s omnibus tobacco control law, COTPA, and the Food Safety Act were not in conflict, but were meant to be read in conjunction with each other as COTPA does not contain a non-obstante clause that excludes operation of other laws.

    Sherfudeen v. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare [India] [August 01, 2016]

    Individual, A. Sherfudeen, requested that the Madras High Court direct the Central Government to notify and give effect to Section 7(5) of India’s omnibus tobacco control law.  Mr. Sherfudeen claimed that there were several different kinds of tobacco products available in the market and that more than 45% of the Indian population (during the period when the petition was filed) were still using tobacco daily, with or without knowing its ill-effects.  The Court directed the Central Government to provide information regarding when they propose to notify the provision.

    Pranvesh v. Union of India [India] [June 30, 2016]

    A University of Allahabad student filed a writ petition alleging the unabated sale of tobacco to minors and adults in the city of Allahabad. The High Court of Allahabad found that temporary and permanent shops located near schools and other public institutions were making such sales. The Court also found that certain tobacco manufacturers presented misleading information about their products in print and visual media and failed to comply with the requirement for pictorial warnings on tobacco products.  The Court passed the following directions: (1) that all temporary/permanent establishments selling tobacco within a 100 yard radius of educational institutions be removed; (2) that all temporary/permanent establishments selling tobacco within 500 meter radius of the High Court and the District Court be removed; (3) that the sale of tobacco to persons seated in parked cars on roads and road sides be stopped; and (4) that strict action be taken against tobacco manufacturers who violate the requirement for compulsory statutory warnings on their products.

    ASA Adjudication on Fontem Ventures [United Kingdom] [June 29, 2016]

    Information about this decision coming soon. 

    RJR Nabisco et al. v. European Community et al. [United States] [June 20, 2016]

    The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that RJR Nabisco could not be sued under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act for its conduct abroad. The European Union (known as the European Community in this case) sued RJR Nabisco claiming that the company directed and managed a global smuggling and money-laundering scheme with organized crime groups in violation of the RICO law. In this decision, the Supreme Court ruled that certain elements of RICO can apply to conduct that occurs outside of the United States. However, the Court also found that a private entity— this case, a foreign government­—cannot sue under RICO in the United States unless it has suffered a domestic injury. Because the European Union had earlier waived its claims of a domestic injury, the Court was forced to dismiss the EU’s remaining claims.