HUL’s many soap wars with Sebamed, Reckitt and Patanjali

HUL’s many soap wars with Sebamed, Reckitt and Patanjali
  • From Burger King and McDonald’s to HUL vs Sebamed, rival brands have engaged in advertising wars time and again.
  • Here are a few of India’s most dramatic soap ad wars.
The ad war between Fast Moving Consumer Goods giants Hindustan Unilever (HUL) and German personal care brand Sebamed, which has everyone on the edge of their seats, took an exciting turn this week.

The Bombay High Court dismissed an appeal filed by USV, which retails Sebamed in India. It passed an injunction restraining Sebamed from airing its advertisements that compared the pH value of its soap to that of HUL’s Dove, Pears and Lux, said an HUL press release.

Sebamed ad said that HUL’s popular Lux and Pears brands have the same pH value of Rin — HUL’s own detergent bar used to clean clothes. The pH value determines the level of acidity of a product.

Though HUL did retaliate with a print ad claiming that Dove is dermatologists’ number one choice, they also filed a case against them for violating the comparative advertising laws of the land and disparaging HUL products.

The court restrained from airing these ads and also termed them “disparaging" in its ruling.


HUL believes that the Sebamed campaign not only denigrated its brands, it also misled consumers. pH is just one of the many parameters that go into manufacturing a soap, the FMCG major says.

“It is also pertinent to note that Sebamed’s campaign was irresponsible, and that such misleading communication was issued during the pandemic, when the government and health authorities had advocated hand washing with any soap,” said Dev Bajpai, ED- legal and corporate affairs of HUL.
HUL’s many soap wars with Sebamed, Reckitt and Patanjali
The Womb

India’s many soap wars that played like soap operas

Sebamed and HUL are not the only two giants to fight in court over a competitive advertisement. India’s history of soap wars read a lot like soap operas.

Reckitt vs HUL
HUL’s many soap wars with Sebamed, Reckitt and Patanjali
Dettol and Lifebuoy

HUL has also locked horns with conglomerate Reckitt (formerly Reckitt Benckiser) in the Bombay HC. It had accused the maker of Dettol soap Reckitt of degrading HUL’s Lifebuoy soap.

In 2020, Dettol Handwash made an indirect reference to Lifebuoy soap by showing a bar similar in colour and proportion and implying that the hand wash works better than a soap.

HUL’s contention in court was that not only had Reckitt disparaged its brand, but was also sending a ‘wrong’ message that suggested soap and water for hand hygiene was not as effective as hand wash.

HUL had reportedly sought ₹1 crore in damages and a permanent injunction against the advertisement. After the court’s ruling, the advertisement was stopped from airing.

HUL vs Patanjali
HUL’s many soap wars with Sebamed, Reckitt and Patanjali
Lux and Patanjali

In 2017, the HC ordered Patanjali Ayurved to stop airing its toilet soap advertisement, which allegedly disparaged HUL’s soap brands.

The ad indirectly told consumers to reject ‘chemical-based soaps’ and adopt natural ones, while hinting at HUL soap Lux. Patanjali had to stop airing, the case was settled.