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Draft guidelines on misleading ads prescribe criteria on valid ads, claims
Wednesday, 16 September, 2020, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Ashwani Maindola, New Delhi
The Ministry of Consumer Affairs has issued a draft for guidelines aimed at preventing unfair trade practices and protecting consumers’ interest.  

Called the Central Consumer Protection Authority (Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Necessary Due Diligence for Endorsement of Advertisements) Guidelines, 2020, these guidelines cover all advertising and marketing communications regardless of form, format or medium.

According to the draft, these guidelines are applicable to the manufacturer/service provider whose products/services are subject of the advertising/marketing communications, as well as to the advertisement agency and endorser (wherever applicable) of the product/service.

The draft guidelines prescribe criteria on conditions for a valid advertisement, non-imitation of advertisements, comparative advertising, bait advertising, surrogate advertising, puffery, free claims. advertisements targeted at children, prohibited advertisements, disclaimers made in supporting, limiting or explaining claims made in advertisements, duties of manufacturer, service provider and advertising agency, honesty of statements and due diligence to be made by an endorser in relation to advertisements, personal use of products and consumer endorsements, expert endorsements and disclosure of material connection.

The draft says that advertisements should not be misleading to the consumers about who the manufacturer of the product is and shall be factual, accurate and capable of substantiation; while advertisements containing comparisons with other manufacturers, suppliers, producers or with other products, including where a competitor is named, shall be permitted in the interest of promoting competition.

Further, advertisement shall not seek to entice consumers to purchase a good or service without a reasonable prospect of selling the advertised good or service at the price offered, says the draft.

On advertisements that are of interest to children, the draft says it shall not take advantage of children's inexperience, credulity or sense of loyalty, or exaggerate the features of a good or service in a way that could lead to children having unrealistic expectations of such good or service and include a direct exhortation to children to purchase a good or service or to persuade their parents, guardians or other persons to purchase a good or service for them.

Also a disclaimer should not attempt to correct a misleading claim made in an advertisement, according to the guidelines.

The guidelines on duties of manufacturer, service provider and advertising agency say that they shall ensure the truthfulness of and honesty of representations and claims made by advertisements and to safeguard against misleading advertisements; ensure that all descriptions, claims and comparisons which relate to matters of objectively ascertainable fact should be capable of substantiation, and produce such substantiation if required by the Central Authority.

On due diligence to be made by an endorser in relation to advertisements, the guidelines say that every endorser endorsing a product or service shall take due care to ensure that all descriptions, claims and comparisons that they endorse or that are made in advertisements they appear in are capable of being objectively ascertained and are capable of substantiation.
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