NEW DELHI: Advertisers beware! Next time when you air an advertisement, which promises the consumer the impossible - fairer skin in a week or a sharper mind and body with a cup of health drink - be prepared to get penalised if you fail to fulfil the promise.
For, the government, after sitting over a slew of complaints against misleading advertisements, has finally decided to get its act together. The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, which is framing a new law to curb the misleading advertisements, has started country-wide consultation with all stakeholders. The new law would allow consumers to seek legal action against false claims made by companies in their advertisement. “We may have an inter-ministerial group that can suggest suitable measures to curb misleading advertisements,’’ Consumer Affair Minister K V Thomas told reporters on Thursday on the sidelines of a national seminar here on misleading advertisements.
“The government is also thinking on lines of forming an independent regulator to monitor and certify health-related advertisements,” he added. The problem of misleading ads continues to be serious in the country despite several legislations like Food Safety and Standards Act, Consumer Protection Act and the Drugs and Cosmetic Act, he said. Although the laws are being enforced by different ministries, there is a need for a comprehensive legal regime to prohibit misleading ads, he added.
“A final view on strengthening legal controls will be taken after we obtain views from stakeholders,’’ Thomas said, adding that the widely-accepted opinion is that both self-regulation and legal controls should work in synergy. Currently, there is no punitive mechanism to penalise advertisers who release misleading ads. All that is there in place is Advertising Standards Council of India, a self-regulatory agency. But that has been almost toothless.