Tall claims in germ killer ads under CCPA scanner; fine, jail term for erring brands

The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) has decided to crack down on tall claims and promises made by brands in their ad campaigns on the efficacy of their products in protecting consumers from COVID-19 and other germs without scientific proof. CCPA has said that brands coming out with such claims will be liable for penal action. It has been noticed that some brands are making false claims to mislead the consumers while promoting products by taking advantage of the ongoing pandemic situation in the country, the CCPA said in an advisory. It added that brands coming out with misleading or false advertising and resorting to unfair trade practice will be liable for stringent action and severe punishments.

With the pandemic, there has been a sharp rise in advertisements for foods and dietary supplements with catchy claims such as “boosts immunity”, “kill 99.99% germs”, “virus killing” and “protects from COVID-19”. Ads for hand sanitizers on TV grew by 100% in July 2020 compared to January 2020, according to a report on TV advertising by TAM Media Research. Advertisements for personal care and hygiene products also saw a growth, constituting 20% of the overall ad volumes on TV in 2020 due to the pandemic, which has spurred a massive demand for hygiene products.

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The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has also ramped up its efforts to keep a check on some of the brands that have been making false or misleading claims in their ads. However, the CCPA has the power to ensure compliance in a manner in which the ASCI cannot. So far, ASCI through their suo moto monitoring of digital spaces, has managed to screen over 650 ads making COVID-19-related claims.

If found guilty the erring advertisers will have to shell out hefty fines up to Rs 10 lakh or face imprisonment of up to two years.


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