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Consumer Protection Bill likely to put a spanner on celeb brand endorsers

Hefty fines are on the anvil for celebrity endorsers appearing in misleading ads. A Parliamentary Panel’s draft amendments to the Consumer Protection Bill prescribes a jail term of up to five years and a fine of Rs 50 lakh for celebrities endorsing misleading ads.

The Consumer Affairs Ministry has approved the Panel’s recommendation that no distinction should be made between celebrities and manufactures or service providers in terms of doling out punishment for misleading ads.

A ministerial group lead by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will now tudy global practices before taking a final decision on stringent punishment for celebrities endorsing misleading advertisements.

The issue of celebrity endorsers came into prominence last year following the ban on Maggi Noodles, where FIRs were filed against Amitabh Bachchan and Madhuri Dixit, who have appeared in Maggi ads. As is known, Maggi Noodles was taken off shelves after FSSAI found lead and monosodium glutamate (MSG) in the brand in excess of the permitted levels.

A few months later real estate company Amrapali ran into controversy following complaints made by residents of its Saphhire housing project on social media, wherein brand ambassador MS Dhoni was also asked to disassociate from the company. As a result, Dhoni quit as Amrapali’s brand ambassador.

The implications of the amended Consumer Protection Bill are many, including for celebrity brands endorsers and brand advertisements.

According to N Chandramouli, CEO, TRA, “Celebrity brand ambassadors have been forced to think twice before endorsing a product making unrealistic claims.” He further added, “With the decision to eschew wrong endorsements, creating a more ethical environment for brands and safe environment for consumers, the current move of will force transparency. Because of this move, only the trusted brands will find celebrity endorsements. However, what is really important is that when a celebrity endorser is made liable, the brand too must be made liable automatically. After all, if anything, there is common responsibility in this.”
 

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