Misleading advertisements

Misleading advertisements

Author:- Shivangi singh, a Student of Christ university

False or misleading advertisements are found in both online and offline modes of transactions. Advertisements aim to inform consumers about the product and its related information to cater to their needs and increase the product’s sales. However, the advertisement through which they inform consumers of something that needs to be improved in the product misleads consumers regarding price, value, rate of return, or quality. It gives false ideas to the consumers. Many common tactics are used consistently by advertisement agencies to mislead consumers into buying something that is not worth spending and might injure them. It also distorts the level of competition in the market, creating abuse of dominant position and resulting in unfair trade practices.

For instance, the bait and switch method, where the advertised products are just a medium to attract consumers to call in and sell some other product in that light, which may be expensive or of inferior quality. Moreover, there are specific unreliable claims regarding medicines, such as beauty creams making you look younger, deceptive pricing, hidden pricing, comparative advertising, exaggerated results, false product claims, and pressure tactics. Third-party endorsers, influencers, or media outlets are familiar sources of such false or misleading advertisements and false promises, for example, skin fairness and weight reduction by food yoga health to reduce 15kg in 3 months, which ASCI looked into further as false a claim, false evidence such as those products endorsed by celebrities that they advertise stating the benefits and how they include such products in their lives, which is again false, visual distortions, especially in the case of online shopping where the products displayed on the sites are vibrant and different from the one which is received.

In India, the provision related to misleading advertisement violation is dealt with under CCPA, wherein manufacturers, advertisers, and endorsers may face a penalty of INR 10 lakh. For subsequent violations, the CCPA may impose a penalty extending up to INR 50 lakhs and imprisonment for a term extending to two years. Banks should refrain from linking in any form or manner, which is an incentive-based advertisement where the clarity of interest is missing, as per Reserve Bank of India (RBI) guidelines.

We have special rules for claims made for therapeutic goods and services under section 3 of the Drugs and Magical Remedies Act. The act states that unless the registered medical practitioner has prescribed it, no company or person shall take part in the publication of the advertisement. This was seen in cases during COVID-19 when companies emphasized how using their product would prevent and cure COVID-19 infections without any scientific evidence or facts. For example, lifebuoy vs Dettol during a pandemic or the Patanjali Ayurved claim that its product “Coronil” could cure COVID-19. The Indian government ordered the company to stop advertising the product as a means of COVID-19 cure since it had no scientific evidence. The Food Safety and Standards Act section 24 ensures rules for claims about foodstuffs regarding health, nutrition, and weight control. Greenwashing is happening in the fashion industry under the tag of eco-friendly, organic, or natural products without any scientific claim or focus on environmental sustainability. For example, the clothing brand Zara is being accused of this.

The Cable Television Network Act ensures that products such as tobacco, alcohol, or other intoxicants are not being advertised under section 6 of the Advertising Standard Council of India ( ASCI ) code. The Advertising Standards Council of India is a non-statutory body that ensures compliance with ethical practices in services related to advertising. Consumers should thoroughly research the product and service which is advertised before buying it, be it online or offline, trust their instincts, and raise questions, if any; they should go for details on the packaging, such as the language used, go for trusted sources and file complaints to the appropriate authorities when they find any misleading or exaggerating claims on the advertised products.

In conclusion, false or misleading advertisements are all around us through various transactions, i.e., online and offline. While considering false advertisements, it is essential to remember that the ‘Caveat Emptor’ principle states that buyers should be aware of the goods they purchase. The empowered consumers aware of their rights can play a more significant role in making the laws/regulations apt and in helping to implement those laws and regulations so framed effectively. There is a greater need to involve consumers in the policy/legislation-making process to regulate laws on such advertisements so that they become more vigilant and critical of interpretation, verification, and remedial mechanisms and come forward to protect their rights. Consumer awareness is the need of the hour to curb misleading ads, which are reaching great heights. At the same time, it is the responsibility of manufacturers to provide satisfaction to the consumers by being honest and transparent in the method of advertisements for the good of the consumers and their products and to retain the trust of consumers, adding to their goodwill.

2 thoughts on “Misleading advertisements

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *