Supreme Court Directs Measures Against Misleading Advertisements

Context:

The Supreme Court of India has mandated new measures to protect consumers from deceptive advertisements. Additionally, the Union government has retracted an AYUSH Ministry letter that excluded Rule 170 of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945, which prohibits advertising Ayurvedic, Siddha, or Unani drugs without approval from licensing authorities.

Relevance:
GS-02 (Government Policies & Interventions)

Key Directives:

  • Self-Declarations by Advertisers: Advertisers must submit self-declarations affirming their advertisements do not deceive or make false claims before promoting products in media.
  • Online Portal for Advertisers: TV advertisers must upload declarations on the ‘Broadcast Seva’ portal. A similar portal for print advertisers is in development.
  • Responsibility of Endorsers: Social media influencers, celebrities, and public figures endorsing products must ensure they have adequate knowledge of the products to avoid deceptive advertising.
  • Ensuring Consumer Protection: Establish a transparent process for consumers to report misleading advertisements and receive updates on complaint status and outcomes.

Recent Cases of Misleading Advertisements:

  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) identified 32 instances of misleading claims by food business operators, totaling 170 violations in six months.
  • Patanjali Ayurved faced a ban on marketing activities due to misleading advertisements and accusations of denigrating allopathic medicine during COVID-19.

Ethical Violations:

  • Misleading advertisements manipulate consumer perceptions and exploit vulnerabilities for commercial gain.
  • They create an uneven playing field, disadvantaging honest competitors and undermining consumer trust.
  • These advertisements can lead to financial losses and potential harm to consumers’ physical or mental well-being.

Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) :

  • The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) was established w.e.f. 24th July 2020 under Section 10 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution.
  • Objective: To promote, protect and enforce the rights of consumers as a class.
  • It will be empowered to conduct investigations into violations of consumer rights and institute complaints/prosecution, order recalls of unsafe goods and services, order discontinuation of unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements, and impose penalties on manufacturers/endorsers/publishers of misleading advertisements.
  • It also acts to prevent unfair trade practices and ensure that no person engages in unfair trade practices.
  • Composition:
    • Chief Commissioner as head.
    • Two other commissioners as members — one of whom will deal with matters relating to goods while the other will look into cases relating to services.