The Central Consumer Protection Authority was established by the Central Government under Section 10 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. This authority has been entrusted under section 18(1)(d) and 18(2)(l) of the Act to ensure that no false or misleading advertisements are made with respect to any goods or services and make necessary guidelines to prevent unfair trade practices and protect consumer interest. The present guidelines are issued in exercise of the aforementioned powers and have been notified on and have come into force on the 9th of June 2022.
Definitions under the guidelines
- Advertiser: a person who designs, produces and publishes advertisements either by his own effort or by entrusting it to others in order to promote the sale of his goods, products or services and includes a manufacturer and service provider of such goods, products or services.
- Advertising agency: a person or an establishment providing services in designing and production of advertisements or other related services for a commission or fee.
Guidelines are applicable to:
- All the advertisements regardless of form, format, medium.
- A manufacturer, service provider or trader whose goods, product or service is the subject of an advertisement.
- An advertising agency or endorser whose service is availed for the advertisement of such goods, product or service.
Conditions for a valid advertisement
As per Rule 4, an advertisement shall be considered valid and not misleading if:
- It contains truthful and honest representation
- It does not mislead the costumers by exaggerating regarding the product with respect to its:
- scientific validity
- practical usefulness, or
- capability, or
- performance, or
- The rights provided to any customer, under any law, are not provided as a distinctive feature of the offer of the advertiser.
- It does not suggest that the claims made in the advertisement are universally accepted if such claims are pertained only by significant division of informed or scientific opinion.
- It does not mislead consumers about nature or extent of risk to their personal security or that of their family if they fail to purchase the advertised goods.
- It ensures the claims that are based merely on the content of publication and not independently substantiated, do not mislead the customers.
- It complies with the sector specific laws and rules and regulations.
Exception: An occasional and unintentional lapse in fulfillment of an advertised promise or claim, which occurs during carrying out mass manufacture and distribution of goods, products and services, may not invalidate the advertisement provided:
- Such claim or promise is capable of fulfillment by a typical specimen of the product advertised.
- Proportion of the product failure is within the acceptable limits.
- Prompt measures have been taken by advertiser to make good the deficiency to costumers.
Conditions for a bait advertisement [Rule 5]
As per Rule 2(1)(d), Bait advertisement means an advertisement in which goods, product or service is offered for sale at a low price to attract consumers.
A bait advertisement should fulfill the following conditions:
- Such advertisement should not entice customer to purchase goods, products or services without a reasonable prospect of selling them at the price offered.
- The advertiser shall ensure that there is adequate supply of goods, products or services, to meet foreseeable demand generated by such advertisement.
- Such advertisement shall state the reasonable grounds which advertiser has believing that he might not be able to supply the product within a reasonable period, quantity and in particular-
- The advertisement should make it clear that the stock of goods or service is limited, if estimated demand exceeds the supply.
- It shall be clearly stated that it is such an advertisement, if the purpose of advertisement is to assess the potential demand.
- The advertisement shall not mislead consumers by omitting restrictions, including geographic restrictions and age-limit on the availability of the goods, products or services.
- In order to induce customers for purchasing the advertisement shall not mislead them about market conditions and lack of availability of good, product and services.
Prohibition on surrogate advertisement [Rule 6]
As per Rule 2(1)(h), Surrogate advertisement means an advertisement for goods, product or service, whose advertising is otherwise prohibited or restricted by law, by circumventing such prohibition or restriction and portraying it to be an advertisement for other goods, product or service, the advertising of which is not prohibited or restricted by law.
- For goods and services whose advertisement is prohibited by law no surrogate or indirect advertisement shall be made by circumventing such prohibition or restriction and portraying it as an advertisement for other good or service.
- An advertisement shall be considered surrogate advertisement if:
- If the customers are directly or indirectly suggested that it is an advertisement for product, good or service whose advertisement is prohibited by law.
- If brand name, logo, color, layout, and presentation associated with such goods, product or services whose advertisement is prohibited or restricted, are used in advertisement.
(Mere use of the brand name, company name associated with restricted or prohibited goods will not make the advertisement surrogate if it not objectionable as per these guidelines.)
Free claim advertisement [Rule 7]
Such an advertisement shall:
- Not describe the product as free of charge or use any such term if the consumer has to pay price for the goods or services advertised.
- Make clear the extent of the commitment of the consumer to take advantage of the free charge.
- Not to describe the products, goods or service as free if:
- The customers have to pay for its packing, packaging, handling or administration.
- If the cost of response, including its price which the customer has to purchase in order to take advantage of such offer has been increased except when it is the result of factors unrelated to cost of promotion.
- the quality or quantity of the goods, product or service that a consumer shall purchase to take advantage of the offer has been reduced.
- Not describe an element of a package as free if such element is included in the package price.
- Not use the terms ‘free trial’ to describe a ‘satisfaction or money back offer’, or any offer for which a non- refundable purchase is required.
Children targeted advertisement
A “child” as per the Act is a person who has not completed eighteen years of age.
As per Rule 8, advertisements that target, addresses, uses children shall not:
- Condone, encourage, inspire, or unreasonably emulate behavior that could be dangerous for children;
- Take advantage of children’s inexperience, credulity or sense of loyalty.
- Exaggerate the features of good, product, service so that the children have unrealistic expectation from it.
- Condone or encourage practices that are detrimental to child’s physical health or mental health
- Imply to children that if they do not purchase or make use of such good, product or service they are likely to be made or feel inferior to other or become less popular or disloyal
- Include direct exhortation to children or persuade parent or any other person to purchase good, service, products from them
- Use qualifiers such as ‘just’ or ‘only’ to make the price of goods, product or service seem less expensive where such advertisement includes additional cost or charge
- Feature children for advertisements prohibited by any law for the time being in force, including tobacco or alcohol-based products
- Feature personalities from the field of sports, music or cinema for products which under any law requires a health warning for such advertisement or cannot be purchased by children;
- Make it difficult for children to judge the size, character and fancy of the product and distinguish between real life situation and fancy.
- Exaggerate what is attainable by an ordinary child using the product being marketed
- Exploit children’s susceptibility to charitable appeals and shall explain the extent to which their participation will help in any charity-linked promotions
- Resort to promotions that require a purchase to participate and include a direct exhortation to make a purchase addressed to or targeted at children;
- Claim that consumption of a product advertised shall have an effect on enhancing intelligence or physical ability or bring exceptional recognition without any valid substantiation or adequate scientific evidence;
- Claim any health or nutritional claims or benefits without being adequately and scientifically substantiated by a recognized body
- Be published in any mass media, including advertisement on network games in respect of medical services, drugs, dietary supplements, medical instruments, cosmetic products, liquor or cosmetic surgery which are adverse to the physical and mental health of children.
- Be such as to develop negative body image in children.
- Give any impression that such goods, product or service is better than the natural or traditional food which children may be consuming.
- Persuade children to buy goods, product or service without necessity or promotes illogical consumerism.
- Advertise junk foods, including chips, carbonated beverages during a program meant for children or on a channel meant exclusively for children.
Disclaimers in advertisements [Rule 11]
A Disclaimer in an advertisement:
- May expand or clarify a claim or resolve ambiguities arisen therein.
- Shall not contradict the claim or the main message or the change the dictionary terms in the claims, which are perceived by customers.
- Shall not attempt to hide material information, the omission or absence of which is likely to make the advertisement deceptive or conceal its commercial intent;
- Shall not attempt to correct a misleading claim.
- Shall be in the same language and font as the claim
- Should be placed at a prominent and visible place on the packaging and same panel as the claim.
- If the claim is presented as voice over, the disclaimer shall be displayed in sync with the voice over and at the same speed as that of original claim made in the advertisement
- Shall be clear, prominent and legible to a normally sighted person from a reasonable distance.
Duties of manufacturer, service provider, advertiser and advertising agency [Rule 12]
Manufacturer, service provider, advertiser and advertising agency shall ensure that-
- All descriptions, claims and comparisons relating to matters of objectively ascertainable facts shall be capable of substantiation and produce the same to central authority if required.
- In cases where the claims in the advertisements are stated to be based on independent research or assessment, the date and the source of the same are indicated in the advertisement.
- Advertisement shall not contain any reference to a person, firm or institution in a manner which confers an unjustified advantage on the product or tends to bring the same to ridicule or disrepute, unless advertiser has obtained requisite permission from them.
- Advertisement shall not contain any visual representations which are directly, impliedly or by omission mislead the consumer.
- Advertisement is so framed that it does not abuse trust, exploit lack of experience or knowledge of consumer.
These guidelines have been issued to protect consumer interest and promote their welfare. It also encourages good practice by restricting advertisers from misleading consumers by advertising false claims. The guidelines also try to regulate bait advertisements, surrogate advertisements or advertisements related to children etc. The advertising agencies are also entrusted with duties so as hold them accountable and responsible to the consumers.