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CCPA cracks down on firms with misleading Covid ads

The official, without divulging the names of the companies which withdrew their “misleading” advertisements, said they included a popular RO maker, a paint company, a shirt brand, a fabric and garment manufacturer, a soap maker and an air conditioner maker.

Written by Harikishan Sharma | New Delhi |
August 21, 2021 2:34:21 am
However, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution is yet to issue guidelines on misleading advertisements.

An apparel firm that claimed that its shirt kills 99 per cent of the virus that causes Covid-19 and a paint brand which claimed that its product has over 99 per cent efficacy in eliminating the virus are among six companies which had to withdraw their advertisements after the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) found these “misleading” and issued notices to them, a top official said on Friday.

The official told The Indian Express that the CCPA has issued notices in 52 cases — 27 for misleading advertisements and 25 for unfair trade practices — since its establishment on July 24, 2020. “Subsequent to the notices, six companies have withdrawn their misleading advertisements, which claimed more than 99 percent efficacy against Covid-19. Four other companies agreed for corrective advertisement,” the official said.

The official, without divulging the names of the companies which withdrew their “misleading” advertisements, said they included a popular RO maker, a paint company, a shirt brand, a fabric and garment manufacturer, a soap maker and an air conditioner maker.

Among the four companies which agreed for corrective advertisement are a hand wash brand and a mattress maker, the official said adding that the notices were issued to these companies after taking the suo motu cognizance of their advertisements circulating in the social media.

The CCPA was established under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, that came into force from July 20, 2020. The Act defines “misleading advertisement” in relation to any product or service, as “an advertisement, which—(i) falsely describes such product or service; or (ii) gives a false guarantee to, or is likely to mislead the consumers as to the nature, substance, quantity or quality of such product or service; or (iii) 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 (iv) deliberately conceals important information”.

However, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution is yet to issue guidelines on misleading advertisements.

Asked about it, the official quoted above said, “The guidelines on misleading advertisements are in an advanced stage. Consultations with different stakeholders have already taken place. The guidelines are expected to be finalised very soon.”

The CCPA has also initiated class action against 9 companies including an e-commerce player and a social media giant on the basis of number of complaints received against these companies, the official said, adding that the class actions are pertaining to refunds related to Covid-19.

In fact, the e-commerce sector accounts for the maximum number of consumer complaints registered on the National Consumer Helpline over the last financial year. Out of 5.79 lakh complaints registered on the helpline in 2020-21, over 2 lakh or 35 per cent of all complaints were related to the e-commerce sector. The banking and telecom sectors received 51,307 and 34,798 complaints respectively.

These three sectors also comprised over 50 per cent of complaints registered between April and July this year.

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