With a focus on children, the government restricts misleading commercials and outlaws surrogate advertising

Surrogate advertisement, according to the standards, is an advertisement for a product or service whose advertising is otherwise illegal or limited by law.

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According to new guidelines issued by the Centre to combat misleading ads, advertisements for junk foods, such as chips, carbonated beverages, and other snacks and drinks, shall not be broadcast during a show intended for children or on a channel dedicated solely to children.

The Department of Consumer Affairs issued the rules for the Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements, 2022, on Thursday, and they are now in effect.

Surrogate commercials are prohibited by the standards, which regulate luring, free claims, and children-targeted advertisements.

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The guidelines state: “An advertisement of any goods, product or service that addresses or targets children shall not – (a) be such as to develop negative body image in children; (b) give any impression that such goods, products or services are better than the natural or traditional food that children may be consuming.”

Under Section 2(28) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, “misleading advertisement falsely describes a product or service; or gives a false guarantee to, or is likely to mislead the consumers as to the nature, substance, quantity or quality of a product or service; or conveys an express or implied representation, which, if made by the manufacturer or seller or service provider thereof, would constitute an unfair trade practice; or deliberately conceals important information”.

“Any commercial that gives promotional gifts to induce youngsters to acquire commodities, products, or services without requirement or promotes illogical consumerism will be discouraged,” according to the guidelines, which were finalised in cooperation with the relevant central ministries.

The Consumer Protection Act of 2019 also prohibits Indian citizens residing overseas from promoting commercials that are prohibited for Indian professionals working in the country.

The criteria state that endorsers must declare their material ties to the endorsed product or service, as well as the “duties” of the manufacturer, service provider, advertiser, and advertising agency.

“No surrogate advertisement or indirect advertisement shall be made for goods or services whose advertising is otherwise prohibited or restricted by law, by circumventing such prohibition or restriction and portraying it to be an advertisement for other goods or services, the advertising of which is not prohibited or restricted by law,” states para 6 (1) of the guidelines.

“Advertising is a key paradigm for consumer protection,” Consumer Affairs Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh stated. The Consumer Protection Act has provisions for dealing with deceptive advertising… However, the government has issued very clear standards for fair advertising to make it more evident to the business.”

The standards would apply to “all commercials, regardless of form, manner, or media,” according to Nidhi Khare, additional secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs.