Bollywood Actors may soon be jailed if they don’t obey new government ad rules

The government has issued new guidelines to combat misleading marketing and endorsers, including the prohibition of surrogate advertisements and the imposition of severe standards for advertisements that seek to entice consumers with discounts and free claims.
The new “Prevention of Misleading Commercials and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements, 2022” standards also aim to control advertisements directed towards minors.

The guidelines, which were announced by the consumer affairs ministry and took effect immediately, also state that proper care must be exercised before endorsing commercials.

Violations of the new standards will be prosecuted under the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), which carries a penalty of ten lakh rupees for the first offence and fifty lakh rupees for successive violations.

“Advertisements have considerable interest for consumers,” consumer affairs secretary Rohit Kumar Singh said when announcing the guidelines. The CCPA Act has procedures for dealing with deceptive marketing that harm consumers’ rights.

“However, the government has issued rules for fair advertising with effect from today to make it more plain, obvious, and conscious to the business,” he said.

The restrictions will apply to all types of advertisements, including print, television, and the internet.

The secretary 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 organisations to file complaints against misleading ads.

These standards would also apply to government advertisements published by PSUs that provide consumer services, according to the secretary.

In addition, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has issued self-regulatory advertising standards, which will be implemented in parallel.

Nidhi Khare, Chief Commissioner of the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) and Additional Secretary in the Consumer Affairs Ministry elaborated on the guidelines: “During the epidemic, the CCPA took action against deceptive advertisements. We believed that guidelines were necessary so that stakeholders are aware of them and do not violate them without knowing.”

Section 2(28) of the Consumer Protection Act of 2019 already defines deceptive advertising. The current guidelines define “bait advertisement,” “surrogate advertisement,” and “free claim advertisements” in explicit terms.

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

Furthermore, the recommendations establish standards to be followed when issuing bait advertisements and free claims commercials, as well as a list of things to consider when publishing ads aimed at minors.

The guidelines prohibit advertisements from exaggerating the features of a product or service in such a way that children develop unrealistic expectations of it, and from making health or nutritional claims or benefits that have not been adequately and scientifically substantiated by a recognised body.

The government later published a statement saying that advertisements targeting children should not include any celebrities from the fields of sports, music, or film for products that are required by law to carry a health warning or cannot be purchased by children.

The guidelines stipulate that disclaimers in advertisements should 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 should not attempt to correct a misleading claim made in an advertisement because disclaimers in advertisements play such an important role from the consumer’s perspective because they limit the company’s liability.

It further states that a disclaimer must be written in the same language as the advertisement’s claim and that the font used in the disclaimer must match the font used in the claim.

Aside from that, specific standards are established for the manufacturer’s, service provider’s, advertiser’s, an advertising agency’s responsibilities, as well as due diligence to be performed prior to endorsing and other issues.

“Any endorsement must reflect the true, reasonably current opinion of the individual, group, or organisations making such representation and must be based on adequate information about, or experience with, the indicated goods, product, or service,” according to Ms Khare.

Where Indian professionals are prohibited by law from endorsing advertisements, international professionals in the same profession are not permitted to do so, according to her.

The standards are designed to protect customers’ interests by increasing transparency and clarity in the way advertisements are produced, allowing them to make informed decisions based on facts rather than false narratives and exaggerations.

According to the government, the penalties for breaking the rules are also clearly stated. For any false marketing, the consumer protection regulator can fine producers, advertisers, and endorsers up to ten lakh dollars. The CCPA can fine you up to Rs. 50 lakh if you break the law again.

The authority has the power to bar an endorser of a deceptive commercial from making any further endorsements for a period of up to one year, with the ability to prolong the restriction for successive violations for up to three years.

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