Laws and Remedies Against Misleading Advertisements

21 May 2024  Read 1362 Views

Parle-G, known for its slogan 'G maane Genius',– you have probably seen this biscuit ad and tasted it at least once. But did you know that this ad could be considered misleading? Because the ad suggests that consuming these biscuits can enhance a child's intelligence by claiming "G" stands for Genius.

Advertising is important today because it affects what people buy. But, it can be misused with misleading ads that violate consumer rights and create unfair business practices. 

In this blog, we will discuss the law regulating misleading ads and how consumers can protect themselves from false advertising. Let's begin!

What is a Misleading Advertisement?

Before understanding Misleading Ads, let's first learn what advertisements are:- 

So Section 2(1) of the Consumer Protection Act 2019 says Advertisement is 

any audio or visual publicity, representation, endorsement or pronouncement made by means of light, sound, smoke, gas, print, electronic media, internet or website and includes any notice, circular, label, wrapper, invoice or such other documents

Misleading advertising includes ads with false or deceptive information meant to trick customers into making bad decisions. It is considered deceptive if it presents products or services dishonestly.

For example, When an edible oil advertisement gives you the impression that you are free of heart problems as long as you use that particular oil, it is misrepresenting facts. Misleading advertisements can influence consumers with fantastical images rather than the grim reality of the product's effectiveness.

Section 2(28) of the Consumer Protection Act of 2019, say any ad for a product or service a "misleading advertisement" when:-

1. Lies about what the product or service can do; or

2. Makes false promises/guarantees or tricks consumers about the product or service's nature, substance, amount, or quality; or

3. Gives an impression that the maker or seller would not say directly because it would be unfair; or

4. Hides important facts on purpose.

Examples of Misleading Advertisements

Laws Against Misleading Ads

The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 

The new Consumer Protection Act 2019 replaced the old Consumer Protection Law of 1986, which is more than thirty years old. It was passed by Parliament to update and improve the old law. The new Act has clear rules about what counts as a misleading advertisement and includes more types of unfair trade practices. Also, a new agency called the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) has been created to stop misleading ads that harm consumers' rights.

The CCPA monitors problems like unfair trade, misleading ads, and actions that harm consumers. It protects and enforces consumer rights for everyone.

The Bureau of Indian Standards (Certification) Regulations, 1988 

The Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986, along with the Bureau of Indian Standards (Certification) Regulations, 1988, has rules about advertisements related to BIS certification. Rule 7 (1) (l), (g), and (h) specifically prohibits misleading ads related to Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) certification.

This certification or registration is mandatory for Manufacturers who want to sell their products in India. Issued by the Bureau of Indian Standards, BIS Certification India or BIS Registration ensures that products meet Indian Standards (IS) regarding quality, safety, and reliability.

Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 

Section 24 of the Act talks about rules for advertisements and unfair trade practices related to food:

1. Ads shouldn't mislead or break the rules set by this Act, its rules, or regulations.

2. People shouldn't use unfair tricks to promote food sales, like:

   a. Falsely saying food meets certain standards or qualities.

   b. Making false or misleading claims about the need or usefulness of the food.

   c. Giving guarantees about how well the food works without scientific proof. If someone claims there's proof, they must show it's scientifically valid.

If someone breaks these rules, they can be fined up to ₹10 lakhs as per Section 53.

The Cable Television Network Act, 1995 & the Cable Television Amendment Act, 2006

The law says that all ads shown on cable TV must follow certain rules. These rules are in the Advertising Code made under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995. According to Section 6 of this Act, no one can show ads on cable TV unless they follow this code.

The Advertising Code, which is part of the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994, says that ads must follow the country's laws. They shouldn't promote products or services with defects mentioned in the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. Also, ads shouldn't claim that a product has special or miraculous qualities unless these claims can be proven.

The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply, and Distribution) Act, 2003

Section 5 prohibits advertising cigarettes or tobacco products in any form of media.

Drug and Magic Remedies Act, 1954 

Section 3 of the Act bans advertisements that promote drugs for diagnosing, curing, alleviating, treating, or preventing diseases, disorders, or conditions listed in the Schedule. 

The Schedule includes conditions like diabetes, cancer, fevers, obesity, impotence, high or low blood pressure, female diseases, epilepsy, height issues, sterility in women, etc.

SC Issues Directions Against Misleading Ads

The Supreme Court issued an order with several directives to protect consumers from misleading ads while hearing the contempt case involving misleading advertisements by Patanjali.  

  1. Self-Declaration for Advertisers: Before publishing any advertisements, broadcasters and print media outlets must file a self-declaration form promising compliance with Cable Network Rules, Advertising Code, etc.
  2. Complaint Lodging Procedure: Union ministries have been instructed to set up a procedure for consumers to lodge complaints about objectionable advertisements and for their timely redressal. 
  3. Celebs' Responsibility: Celebrities and social media influencers who endorse a product should have adequate information or experience with it—they will be equally liable if they endorse misleading products. 
  4. Disclosure of Action: The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) has been directed to disclose action taken on false or misleading advertisements in the food and health sector, through the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.

Also, the SC has said that the fundamental right to health includes the consumer's right to know about the quality of products offered by the manufacturers and those advertising them. 

How to Protect Consumers From Misleading Advertising?

A. Stay Informed: Learn to recognise common tricks used in misleading ads, like exaggerating a product's benefits or hiding important details.

B. Verify Claims: Don't just believe what ads say. Do your own research to check if their claims are true.

C. Read the Fine Print: Important information is often hidden in the fine print, so read it carefully.

D. Report Misleading Ads: If you find a misleading ad, report it to the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA).

E. Seek Legal Help: If a misleading ad has caused you harm, you can seek legal remedies under laws like the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.

Penalties for Misleading Advertisement under the Consumer Protection Act

Section 21: The Central Authority can stop or modify deceptive ads and penalise the manufacturer, endorser, or publisher.

Section 89: Manufacturers or service providers responsible for false ads can face up to 2 years in jail and a ₹10 lakh fine. Repeat offenders can face up to 5 years in jail and a ₹50 lakh fine.

You should read this blog- Supreme Court’s Top 10 Judgements of 2023

Conclusion

Laws against misleading ads are important because these ads can trick people with false information. They make people buy things they don't need or that might not work well. The law says ads must be truthful so that people know what they're getting and can make good choices for their health.

About the Author: Anirudh Nikhare | 59 Post(s)

Anirudh did his Bachelor's in Law and has practical experience in IPR, Contracts, and Corporate. He is your go-to legal content writer turning head-scratching legal topics into easy-to-understand gems of wisdom. Through his blog, he aims to empower readers with knowledge, making legal concepts digestible and applicable to everyday life.

Liked What You Just Read? Share this Post:

Finology Blog / Legal / Laws and Remedies Against Misleading Advertisements

Wanna Share your Views on this? Comment here: