In the age of information and technology, advertisements are becoming an integral part of our lives, it has become very difficult for all of us to escape their influence. Today every section of society whether it is children or elderly, working women or housewives. The effect of advertisements can be seen in everyone. Advertisements leave a deep impression on our lives. Our food, lifestyle, and everything is being influenced by advertisements, even our way of thinking and behaving is visible in advertisements. We can also say that advertising is the mirror of society, the type of society will be while preparing the copy of the advertisement, its dialogues, pictures, advertised products, etc. will be of the same type. It is very difficult to say that the impression of society is visible in advertisements, that the impression of advertisements is visible in society. Common consumers need to know what advertisements are, how they affect our lives, and when these advertisements become misleading. Along with this, it should also be known what are the laws in the country for the prevention or control of these misleading advertisements. All these things have been discussed in this chapter so that the consumer can become aware and his interests can be protected.
What is an advertisement?
Advertisements are a means of promoting goods and services, but when advertisers deliberately create false propaganda and distort facts, then it becomes objectionable. When a producer or advertiser claims a product, he must also substantiate it. If he is not able to do so then it will be considered a misleading advertisement and action can be taken against him under various laws of the country. An advertisement is said to be of inappropriate behavior when the content is presented incorrectly in an advertisement for a product or service; when the advertisement is infringing the consumer’s right to be informed.
When does an advertisement become misleading?
Any advertisement or promotion through television, Radio, or any other electronic media, newspaper, Banners, Posters, Handbills, wall-writing, etc. to misrepresent the nature characteristic, qualities, or geographic origin of goods, services, or commercial activities to mislead the consumer could be broadly defined as a misleading advertisement. Advertisements being made about any goods or services become misleading when the content is presented incorrectly in an advertisement for a product or service and the advertisement is infringing the consumer’s right to be informed. For example, using fake papers to build confidence among buyers, quoting deceptive prices, outrageously creating confusion about other products, etc. Also, the advertisement in which the consumer’s right to safety and right of choice or choice is being infringed. Publishing and disseminating advertisements that are targeting children such that the spirit of violence is strengthened in them. Recently, a claim was snapped on Patanjali Ayurveda Ltd. to introduce a misleading ad on television to rechristen his product ‘Parampara ka Palan Karni wali’ his honey was proven as substandard by scrutinizing analysis by food regulatory bodies. ASCI has said that the advertisement of Patanjali honey being circulated is misleading. The ASCI said that Patanjali Ayurveda’s claim of purity in its honey is baseless.
Effect of misleading advertisements
Misleading advertisements infringe on the consumer’s right to information, safety, and choice. Under the influence of misleading advertisements, the consumer many times uses such goods and services which can be fatal to his health and life. Because of this, it causes physical and mental as well as financial damage. The visuals shown in the advertisements have a profound effect on the mind and minds of the children. The violent and provocative scenes shown in the advertisements get engrossed in the mind of the children in such a way that they start imitating them. Sometimes in newspapers and on television, we get to hear and see such news, that at such a place a child imitating Superman jumped off the roof and lost his life. Therefore, there is a need to strictly stop such types of advertisements.
In the recent case of Reckitt Benckiser (India) Ltd. vs Hindustan Unilever ltd, Lifebuoy soap manufacturer Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL), who reached the court regarding this matter, said in the Bombay High Court that the Dettol company is calling their soap substandard in its advertisement. Whereas Dettol company said that they have not named any soap in their ad. Justice KR Shriram’s Single Bench observed that an advertisement of Dettol featured the trademark of Lifeboy soap and stated that Dettol soap has 10 times more protection against germs. Thus the company has to put a stop to its ad.
Categories of deceptive and false advertisements
There are mainly two categories of deceptive and false advertisements. In the first category, such advertisements come which violate the consumer’s right to information and choice and cause them economic loss and mental pain. At the same time, some advertisements promote uncertain medicine and drugs or try to sell false health equipment. This type of advertisement is more dangerous and dangerous because they are harmful to the health and body of the consumer. Many times people’s lives are lost due to the consumption of such drugs. Such advertisements belong to the second category.
In the case of Havells India Ltd. v. Amritanshu Khaitan, it has been laid down to divide the meaning of misleading, Comparative, and disparagement as the comparison advents create healthy competition in the market and enhance the productivity of the product whereas the misleads adds makes the person blind from real facts of the product. Offering any product in the market for profit is not a crime or mischief but deception of facts and inevitability of the said item will have a very bad effect on the consumers and there may be a direct infringement of consumer rights.
In the case of Nadiya v. Proprietor, Fathima Hospital & Others, which was brought before the Kerala State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, it was alleged by the complainant that she was lured by an advertisement that claimed to increase the height of a person. Nadiya, a Class VIII student whose Height is 135 cm, entered Fatima Hospital for surgery in 1996, to increase his height. After the operation, a ring fixator was placed on the legs which had to be adjusted every six hours. When the ring fixator was removed, it was found that her left leg was short by an inch. By September 1996, she was bedridden because walking was not possible for her because of her deformity and disability, till March 1998. It was held that the opposite parties are liable to indemnify the complainant for the alleged injury caused by his negligence.
Rules governing advertisements
The Government of India tries to control business activities through many rules, laws, and codes. There are many rules, laws, and codes made by the government, which have provisions to control advertisements in India. But unfortunately due to their not being followed properly, misleading advertisements are not being stopped completely.
Some of the major rules, laws, and codes are being described here for the awareness of the consumers such as the Press Council of India Act, of 1978, the Cable Television Regulation Act, of 1955, and the Cable Television Amendment Act of 2006, the Establishment of the Advertisement Standard Council of India 1985 Apart from this, many rules, laws, and codes of conduct have been made by the Government of India which protect the interests of the consumers.
Rights of Consumer
Now the question arises, what if you are the victim of such problems, and what are the sorts of chances to get relief as a consumer? As a consumer a person has the following rights:
- Right to protection against all kinds of dangerous goods and services.
- The right to be fully informed about the performance and quality of all goods and services.
- Right to freedom of choosing goods and services.
- Right to be heard in all decision-making processes relating to consumer interests.
- Whenever consumer rights have been violated, it has the right to be redressed.
- Right to complete consumer education.
Consumers should not blindly believe what is said in advertisements, they should use the advertised goods or services only after doing complete information about that subject. It is not right to be influenced by the nature of the advertisements alone. The attention of other consumers, consumer groups, and NGOs should be attracted to such false advertisements so that voices can be raised against them. By setting up a small consumer club in your locality, school, or office, deceptive advertising should be discussed and such false and misleading advertisements should be reported to the agencies concerned. Inappropriate advertisements related to any telecom service can complain to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. Advertisements violating the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act can complain to the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
Author(s) Name: Badal Yadav (Maharaja Agrasen Institute of Management Studies)
 M/S Dabur India Ltd v M/S Patanjali Ayurved Ltd. (2017) (Civil) OS No. 249/2017.
Reckitt Benckiser (India) Ltd. vs Hindustan Unilever ltd. (2014) SCC Online Del 490.
 Havells India Ltd. And Ors. v Amritanshu Khaitan and Ors. (2015) (Civil) OS No. 107/2015.
 Nadiya v Proprietor, Fathima Hospital & Ors. (2001) Complaint No. 107/1998.
 Pranav Rudresh, ‘Law governing Advertisement Law in India’ (IPleaders, 23 December 2016) <https://blog.ipleaders.in/laws-governing-advertisement-india/> accessed 07 October 2022.