Consumer Affairs Ministry issues new guidelines to stop misleading ads

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Consumer Affairs Ministry issues new guidelines to stop misleading ads, The government on Friday came out with new guidelines to prevent misleading advertisements, including those targeting children and making free claims to woo consumers. The guidelines also specify due diligence to be carried out while endorsing in advertisements.

The new guidelines notified by the Consumer Affairs Ministry that have come into force with immediate effect also prohibit surrogate advertisements and have brought transparency in disclaimers in ads.

Announcing the guidelines, Consumer Affairs secretary Rohit Kumar Singh said: “Advertisements have great interest for consumers. Under the CCPA Act, there are provisions to handle misleading advertisements affecting consumers rights. “But to make it more explicit, clear and aware to the industry, the government has come out with guidelines for fair advertising with effect from today,” he said.

The restrictions will apply to all types of advertisements, including print, television, and internet. Violations of the new guidelines will be dealt with in accordance with the terms of the Central Consumer Protection Act.

The Secretary of State stated that while these guidelines will not bring about immediate change, they will provide a framework for industry stakeholders to prevent misleading ads even if they are made by mistake, as well as empower consumers and consumer organizations to file complaints against misleading ads.

These guidelines, according to the Secretary, would also apply to government advertisements. In addition, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) will develop self-regulatory advertising rules.

CCPA Chief Commissioner and Additional Secretary in the Consumer Affairs Ministry Nidhi Khare said: “CCPA has taken action against misleading ads during the pandemic. We felt that there was a need to have guidelines, so that stakeholders are aware of them and do not violate without knowledge.”

The new guidelines clearly define what ‘misleading advertisement’ means and provide various criteria for an advertisement to be considered valid and non-misleading, she said. It also provides clarity on ‘bait’ advertisements, and ‘free claims’ advertisements, while prohibits ‘surrogate’ advertisements or indirect advertisements.

Bait advertisement means an advertisement in which goods, products or service is offered for sale at a low price to attract consumers.

Besides, the guidelines lay down conditions to be complied with while issuing bait advertisements and free claims advertisements, enumerating various factors to be considered in publishing ads especially targeting children.

The restrictions will apply to all types of advertisements, including print, television, and internet. Violations of the new guidelines will be dealt with in accordance with the terms of the Central Consumer Protection Act.

The Secretary of State stated that while these guidelines will not bring about immediate change, they will provide a framework for industry stakeholders to prevent misleading ads even if they are made by mistake, as well as empower consumers and consumer organizations to file complaints against misleading ads.

These guidelines, according to the Secretary, would also apply to government advertisements. In addition, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) will develop self-regulatory advertising rules.

Nidhi Khare, the CCPA’s Chief Commissioner and the Consumer Affairs Ministry’s Additional Secretary, said: “During the epidemic, the CCPA took action against misleading advertisements. We believed that guidelines were necessary so that stakeholders are aware of them and do not violate them without knowing.”

According to her, the new standards define “misleading advertisement” and establish several criteria for what constitutes a valid and non-misleading commercial. It also clarifies the definitions of ‘bait’ and ‘free claims’ advertisements, while prohibiting ‘surrogate’ or indirect advertisements.

A bait advertising is one in which items, products, or services are advertised for sale at a low price in order to entice customers.

The standards lay out the parameters that must be followed when publishing bait commercials and free claims ads, as well as a list of factors to consider when publishing ads that are specifically targeted at youngsters.

Advertisements should not “create negative body image in children or provide any sense that such items, product, or service is superior than natural or traditional cuisine that children may be consuming,” according to Khare.

Apart from that, the standards specify the manufacturer’s, service provider’s, advertiser’s, and advertising agency’s responsibilities. In the event that claims in the advertising are based on or supported by independent research or assessments, they have been required to provide the source and date of such research or assessments.

Khare said, “Any endorsement must reflect the genuine, reasonably current opinion of the individual, group or organizations making such representation and must be based on adequate information about, or experience with, the identified goods, product or service.”

She stated that if Indian professionals are prohibited by law from endorsing any advertisement, then international professionals in that profession are also prohibited from endorsing such ads.

The recommendations state that the corporation not contradict the material claim made in the ads and not attempt to hide material facts with respect to any claim made in such ads in order to bring transparency to disclaimers in advertisements.

The standards also require material connections to be disclosed. “If there is a material connection between the endorser and the trader, manufacturer, or advertiser of the endorsed product that could materially affect the value or credibility of the endorsement, and the audience is not reasonably expecting such a connection, such connection should be fully disclosed in making the endorsement.”

the CCPA, the CCPA, the CCPA, According to Khare, the agency has issued 113 notifications so far, including 57 for deceptive advertising, 47 for unfair trade practices, and nine for violations of consumer rights.

Following the notifications, 14 companies have withdrew their advertisements, with the majority claiming efficacy against COVID/germs of over 99 percent.

According to her, three companies have released corrective advertisements, one has amended its refund/replacement policy for the benefit of consumers, and another has set penal provisions for its sellers in the event of any flaw discovered.

Three companies have been fined Rs.10 lakh each for misleading advertisements, and three companies have been fined Rs.1 lakh each for unfair trade practices, she added.

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