May 24, 2024

The Supreme Court on May 7 issued a stern warning to social media influencers, celebrities and public figures, lambasting them for promoting products without fully comprehending the possible ramifications. 

The apex court also commanded the Ministry of Consumer Affairs to provide an affidavit detailing the measures tackled against deceptive advertising, particularly concerning the food sector.

“Endorsements by public figures, influencers and celebrities go a long way. It is imperative for them to act with responsibility in endorsing advertisement and taking responsibility for the same. A person who endorses a product must have knowledge on the same,” A bench of justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah said.

 

The directive was issued during a hearing of a case involving advertisements by yoga guru Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurved, which claimed to cure illnesses like diabetes with its drugs and products.

“We are of the opinion that advertisers and endorsers are equally responsible for misleading advertisements,” the court said.

The court further asserted that advertisers ought to submit self-declarations commensurate with the cable TV regulations of 1994, before their adverts can be broadcast.

This call for increased transparency is rooted in the responsibility to support consumer wellbeing by enhancing their awareness of the products they engage with, particularly within the all-important food sector.

The Supreme Court also issued a ruling that requires all advertisers to file a self-declaration in adherence to the Cable Television Rules of 1994, before their advertisements can be broadcasted. This ruling further denotes that advertisements can only be aired on channels subsequent to their compliance with this directive. These declarations are then mandated to be uploaded onto the government’s broadcast Seva portal.

The court has further issued a mandate to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, ordering them to furnish a detailed affidavit on the actions taken by the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) against deceptive or misleading advertisements, particularly those in the food and health sector. In a related move, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has also been asked to provide a similar affidavit.

The court has mandated Patanjali to retract deceptive online advertisements and cease the circulation of banned products in certain retail outlets. Balbir Singh, the senior advocate representing Patanjali, pledged to formulate a strategy for this task.

On April 23, the court incorporated the ministries of information and broadcasting and consumer affairs in the lawsuit, noting the direct influence misleading advertisements have on vulnerable groups like children and elderly citizens. The court also expressed its intentions to scrutinise the deceptive advertising tactics of FMCG and pharmaceutical industries.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) had previously lodged a complaint against companies like Patanjali Ayurved which falsely promote their products as capable of curing various ailments.

Last November, Patanjali assured the court that it would withdraw advertisements which made bogus claims about its products or aspersions on scientific medicines and vaccinations. However, it came to light that the company persisted with these deceptive advertisements.

Consequently, the court issued summons to yoga guru Ramdev and Patanjali’s managing director Acharya Balkrishna, in response to which they both issued two public apologies for their disregard of the court’s instructions.

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