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Govt issues new guidelines to prevent misleading ads

The government on Friday issued new guidelines to prevent misleading advertisements in order to protect the consumers who may be exploited or affected by such messaging.

The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA), under the Department of Consumer Affairs, has notified ‘Guidelines for Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements, 2022’, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution said in a statement.

The guidelines seek to ensure that consumers are not being fooled with unsubstantiated claims, exaggerated promises, misinformation and false claims. Such advertisements violate various rights of consumers such as the right to be informed, the right to choose and the right to be safeguarded against potentially unsafe products and services.

The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) has been established under section 10 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 for regulating matters relating to violation of the rights of the consumers, unfair trade practices and false or misleading advertisements which are prejudicial to the interests of public and consumers and to promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers as a class.

“In exercise of the powers conferred by section 18 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, to CCPA, the Guidelines were notified,” the ministry said.

Misleading advertisement has already been defined under section 2(28) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. The present guidelines define “bait advertisement”, “surrogate advertisement” and clearly provide what constitutes “free claim advertisements”, it said.

Keeping in view the sensitiveness and vulnerability of children and the severe impact advertisements make on the younger minds, several preemptive provisions have been laid down on advertisements targeting children.

Guidelines forbid advertisements from exaggerating the features of a product or service in such a manner as to lead children to have unrealistic expectations of such product or service and claim any health or nutritional claims or benefits without being adequately and scientifically substantiated by a recognized body.

The guidelines say that advertisements targeting children shall not feature any personalities from the field of sports, music or cinema for products that under any law require a health warning for such advertisement or cannot be purchased by children.

Disclaimers in advertisements play a pivotal role from a consumer perspective since in a way it limits the responsibility of the company. Therefore, guidelines stipulate that disclaimer shall not attempt to hide material information with respect to any claim made in such advertisement, the omission or absence of which is likely to make the advertisement deceptive or conceal its commercial intent and shall not attempt to correct a misleading claim made in an advertisement.

Further, it provides that, a disclaimer shall be in the same language as the claim made in the advertisement and the font used in a disclaimer shall be the same as that used in the claim, the ministry said.

The government has also laid guidelines for duties of manufacturers, service providers, advertisers and advertising agencies, due diligence to be carried out before endorsing and others. Guidelines aim to protect consumers’ interests by bringing in more transparency and clarity in the way advertisements are being published, so that, consumers are able to make informed decisions based on facts rather than false narratives and exaggerations.

Penalties for violating the guidelines are also clearly outlined. CCPA can impose a penalty of up to Rs 10 lakh on manufacturers, advertisers and endorsers for any misleading advertisements. For subsequent contraventions, CCPA may impose a penalty of up to Rs 50 lakh. The Authority can prohibit the endorser of a misleading advertisement from making any endorsement for up to 1 year and for subsequent contravention, prohibition can extend up to 3 years. The Print

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