celebrity endorsements: Celebrities will now have to declare stakes in brands they endorse

Celebrity endorsers will have to disclose even small stakes in companies or brands that they are endorsing, failing which the advertisement will be considered misleading, according to the government’s new guidelines to prevent misleading ads.

The guidelines prohibit surrogate advertising. Also, advertisements targeting children cannot promote negative body image in children or give any impression that the advertised product is better than the natural or traditional food which children may be consuming.

“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,” the guidelines said.

Bait advertisements which promote offers such as ‘half price’ and ‘special offer’ must ensure that there is an adequate supply of goods, products or services to meet foreseeable demand generated by such ads and if the estimated demand exceeds supply, they will have to make clear that the stock of the goods or services is limited.

The consumer affairs ministry notified the guidelines late Thursday, making them effective immediately. These will be applicable to advertisements published on all platforms, like print, television and online.

According to the guidelines, disclaimers should be in the same language and similar font size as the advertisement itself. Likewise, in the case of audio, the disclaimer will have to be at the speed of the rest of the advertisement.

“Advertisements have a great interest for consumers. Under the Central Consumer Protection Act, there are provisions to handle misleading advertisements affecting consumers’ rights. But to make it more explicit, clear and aware to the industry, the government has come out with guidelines for fair advertising with effect from today (Friday),” consumer affairs secretary Rohit Kumar Singh said.

Singh said these guidelines would be applicable to manufacturers, advertisers, advertising agencies and sellers of all products and services, including government advertisements.

Nidhi Khare, additional secretary in the ministry, said so far, the Central Consumer Protection Authority had issued 113 notices, out of which 57 were for misleading advertisements, 47 notices relating to unfair trade practices and nine for violation of consumer rights. Subsequent to the notices, 14 companies have withdrawn their advertisements.