The central consumer protection authority has come up with guidelines namely Central Consumer Protection Authority (Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Necessary Due Diligence for Endorsement of Advertisements) Guidelines, 2020, which covers all forms, formats and medium of advertising and marketing communications be it print, TV or social media. The guidelines also bring into its ambit endorsers who would now need to be more careful and could be held accountable for misleading advertisements.
As per clause 4 of the said guidelines, for an advertisement to be valid it must contain true and honest representations,not mislead by exaggerators or false scientific claimsor nature or extent of the risk to consumers and should not be offensive to the public decency of India, amongst other conditions where the comparative advertisement is allowed so long as they can substantiate their claims with facts, however, it is made clear that advertisements must not use imitation so as to cause confusion amongst consumers, however, puffery (exaggerations unlikely to be taken seriously by the consumers)is allowed. The guidelines also prohibit advertisements likely to incite violence, intolerance or criminal activities. With utmost truthfulness and honesty, the claims shall be presented without any misleading advertisements to ensure that the trust of the consumer is not abused due to lack of knowledge or experience.
Specific focus has been made for advertisements targeted at chilren are specifically made to ensure that the children are not used as prey to marketing tactics, which might create unrealistic expectations in the child’s mind and do not promote emulation of dangerous behaviour.
The guidelines direct the responsibility on endorsers as now it is the duty of every endorser, to take due care to verifythat all descriptions, claims and comparisons that they endorse are not false or misleading and they can seek advice for the same from an advertising self-regulatory organisation or a legal opinion from an independent legal practitioner and its compliance with these guidelines and the Act may be considered to have carried out due diligence for the purposes of his liability under the Act
The draft guidelines also aim to address issues concerning misleading “bait advertising” (i.e, using products to entice consumers and increasing price after the consumer shows interest) and “surrogate advertising” (indirect advertisement of products prohibited by law). With regards to “free claims”, if there are hidden charges associated with it.