Ads with disclaimers in small fonts to be considered 'misleading'
The Ministry of Consumer Affairs has released a set of draft guidelines for manufactures, ad agencies and endorsers to prevent false or misleading advertisements
Advertisements using small fonts for disclaimers will be considered as 'misleading', according to the draft guidelines released by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs. They also mandate that the font size of the disclaimer should be the same size as the claim made by the advertisement.
Similarly, the guidelines say that the disclaimer is presented as a voice-over (VO), the claim made by the advertiser should be in sync with the VO in the ad.
These new rules are part of a set of draft guidelines released by the Ministry under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 to prevent false or misleading ads. The draft also comprises rules for due diligence for product endorsements. Titled Central Consumer Protection Authority (Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Necessary Due Diligence for Endorsement of Advertisements) Guidelines, 2020, the guidelines cover all advertising and marketing communications, irrespective of their form, format or medium. They also hold responsible the manufacturer, service provider -- whose products and services are the subject of the ad or communications -- and the ad agency and endorsers promoting the product or service.
The draft comprises 20 rules covering conditions for a "valid advertisement" to "contraventions of the guidelines."
The guidelines mandate that In order to be considered valid, the ad should contain truth and honest representations. It should never mislead consumers by inflating claims about the capability of the product/service. It should " not present rights given to consumers by virtue of law as a distinctive feature of the advertiser’s offer," stated the guidelines. Among other qualities, the ad should also adhere to standards of public decency in India.
The guidelines also prohibit ads imitating others with respect to their layout, copy, slogans, visuals, presentation, music or sound effects. For comparative ads, advertisers should make comparisons with other manufacturers where the competitor should be named. The features of the competitor's product compared to the advertiser's own should be clearly specified in the ad. "The nature of comparisons is such that they are factual, accurate and capable of being substantiated," it said.
The draft also outlines clear rules for bait and surrogate advertising for prohibited products. Advertisers are also warned against making exaggerated claims that the consumers may take literally. "An advertisement shall not describe a good or service as ‘free’, ‘without charge’ or other similar terms if a consumer has to pay anything other than the unavoidable cost of responding to the advertisement and collecting or paying for the delivery of the item," it stated under the "Free Claims" section of the guidelines.
The ministry has also outlined detailed rules for ads targeted at children, which includes prohibiting content that "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."
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