May 24, 2024

Are Misleading Advertisements a Violation of Your Fundamental Rights?

Often, endorsements from popular celebrities become an impetus for us to purchase a product or service. However, a famous face is not always a guarantee of the quality of the product or service and the Supreme Court in its recent order warned consumers to beware of misleading advertisements.

The Supreme Court on May 7th  highlighted that Article 21 of the Constitution includes a consumers’ fundamental right to health. This in turn includes their right to be aware of the quality of goods and services they are purchasing, especially in the field of drugs and food. The court issued a directive to address growing concerns surrounding misleading advertisements, following a petition by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) accusing Patanjali Ayurved of issuing misleading advertisements and criticizing allopathy. The Court emphasized the responsibility of both advertisers and endorsers in cases of misleading advertisements.

The Court stated that celebrities and influencers should “not abuse the trust placed in them by the public” and should be held liable for any form of misleading advertising.

In this Weekly, we’ll look at what misleading advertisements are and how to report them. 

What is a Misleading Advertisement?

Misleading advertisements are defined under Section 2(28) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, as advertisements that:

(i) Falsely describe a product or service.

(ii) Falsely represents and assures the consumers about  the nature, substance, quantity, or quality of a product or service.

(iii) Conveys any form of explicit or implied message that constitutes an unfair trade practice under the law.

(iv) Deliberately conceals important information.

What is the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA)?

The Consumer Protection Act, 2019, established the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to regulate matters related to consumer rights violations, unfair trade practices, and false or misleading advertisements.

Under Section 10 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, the e CCPA is responsible for   safeguarding and defending consumers’ rights by issuing guidelines for enforcement of the different provisions of the Act.It promotes, protects, and enforces consumer rights. The CCPA is vested with the power to:

  • conduct investigations;
  •  Institute complaints/prosecutions;
  •  order the recalling  of unsafe goods/services;
  • discontinue unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements;
  • impose penalties on offenders.

Guidelines Against Misleading Advertisements

The CCPA issued the Guidelines for Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements on June 9, 2022.

These Guidelines require businesses to comply with stringent regulations governing misleading advertisements. They also apply to advertising agencies and endorsers, including celebrities and influencers, involved in the advertisement of goods, products, or services.

The Guidelines mandate that endorsements in advertisements must reflect the genuine and fairly recent opinion of the endorse.rThey must be based on adequate information or experience with the goods or services being endorsed, ensuring they are not deceptive. This effectively makes a blind or false endorsement of a product by a celebrity illegal.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

In case of non-compliance with the Guidelines, the CCPA can impose a penalty of up to INR 10 lakh on manufacturers, advertisers, and endorsers for issuing misleading advertisements, under Section 21 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.

 For any subsequent violations, the CCPA may impose a penalty of up to INR 50 lakh. The CCPA can also prohibit the endorser of a misleading advertisement from making any endorsements for up to one year. The prohibition can extend to three years for subsequent contraventions. 

Can you file a complaint if you think any ad is misleading?

Yes, any consumer can file a complaint under this act by following the steps given below: 

Offline Procedure:

  1. Write the Complaint: The complaint must be written and can be submitted by the consumer or through an authorized agent to CCPA
  2. Notarize and Submit: The complaint should be notarized and submitted to the District Collector, regional Commissioner, or the Central Authority ( CCPA) within two years of the dispute.
  3. Required Documents: Include details of the complainant, opposite party, dispute particulars, and the relief sought, along with supporting documents.
  4. Fees: Pay the required fee via demand draft to the President, Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum of the respective district.

Online Procedure:

  1. Register Online: Visit the National Consumer Helpline website and register as a consumer.
  2. Go to the Grievance Against Misleading Advertisement portal.
  3. Log In and File Complaint: Log in with the provided credentials, fill in the complaint details, and upload necessary documents.
  4. Track Complaint: Use the unique ID provided to track the status of the complaint.
  5. Helpline: Call the National Consumer Helpline at 1800-11-4000 or 14404, or send a message to 8130009809 for assistance.

If you have been the victim of any misleading advertisements and have legal questions about it, please reach out to our Ask Nyaaya helpline.