Policy

Centre finalising guidelines for companies, brand ambassadors to prevent misleading ads

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani New Delhi | Updated on September 07, 2020 Published on September 06, 2020

The guidelines will cover all advertising and marketing communications regardless of form, format or medium   -  iStockphoto

Stakeholders’ view sought on draft norms

Manufacturers, service providers, advertising agencies as well as brand endorsers will soon need to adhere to a set of guidelines that are being finalised by the Consumer Affairs Ministry to prevent misleading advertisements and protect consumer interests.

For an advertisement to be considered valid, companies will need to ensure their ads are truthful, contain honest representation and make claims that can be substantiated.

They will also need to ensure that advertisements targeted at children do not promote emulation of dangerous behaviour or focus on promotions that can be perceived as “direct exhortation” to make a purchase of their products. In comparative advertisement, they will need to ensure that claims made while comparing their own products with that of their rivals are factual, accurate and can be substantiated.

 

These are some of the features of the draft guidelines released by the Consumer Affairs Ministry that are aimed at prevention of misleading advertisements and necessary due diligence for endorsement of advertisements. The Ministry has sought views from stakeholders on the draft guidelines, which will then be notified by the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA).

Once notified, these guidelines will cover “all advertising and marketing communications regardless of form, format or medium”.

Under the recently notified Consumer Protection Act, 2019, the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) has been empowered to issue necessary guidelines to prevent unfair trade practices and protect consumers’ interest.

Brand ambassadors

The draft guidelines state that besides companies, even brand ambassadors will need to do due diligence to ensure that all “descriptions, claims and comparisons” made by products that they endorse or that are made in advertisements they feature in, are capable of being objectively ascertained.

 

Even endorsement of products done through personal testimonial on digital platforms by celebrities will need to be genuine. “Where any endorsement of a product or service is made through a testimonial or representation of opinion or preference of the endorser, the endorsement shall reflect the genuine, reasonably current opinion of the endorser, and shall be based on either adequate information about or experience with the product or service being endorsed,” the draft guidelines said.

In addition, endorsers will need to make a full disclosure of their “material connection” with manufacturers or advertisers regarding an endorsed product, in case “the connection is not reasonably expected by the audience”.

Meanwhile, the proposed guidelines also state that companies will need to ensure that disclaimers, made to expand or clarify claims, will need to be clear, legible, made in the same language and font as that of the claim in an advertisement.

The draft guidelines also aim to address issues concerning misleading “bait advertising” and “surrogate advertising”.With regards to “free claims”, the proposed guidelines state that an advertisement cannot describe a product or service with terms such as “ free” or “without charge”, if consumers are required to “pay anything other than the unavoidable cost of responding to the advertisement and collecting or paying for the delivery of the item” .

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Published on September 06, 2020
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