Occurrence of Misrepresentations or Omissions in Advertising a Product!
In recent years the quantity of false, misleading and offensive advertising has resulted in consumers having an increasing disbelief in advertising, and a growing resentment of it.
Misleading, false advertising also constitutes unfair competition. It could lead to market-place disaster or even litigation.
If this kind of advertising continues, it won’t be long before statutory regulations and procedures are imposed which make even fair, truthful, decent advertising cumbersome if not impossible. This certainly will affect your ability to compete and grow.
This is a fascinating subject and it is heavily determined by political attitudes. Those who believe in less government intervention and think that business should be left alone to regulate itself tend to favour less advertising regulation. Others who believe government has a role to play tend to want more legislation and government regulation. To understand advertising regulation, a host of issues need to be addressed.
One central issue is definitional-what is deception? Deception exists when ad is introduced into the perceptual process of some audience and the output of that perceptual process differs from the reality of the situation or affects buying behaviour to the detriment of the consumer. The deception will be found if there is misrepresentation, omission or practice that is likely to mislead
There are various ways in which misrepresentations or omissions can occur:
i. Suggesting that a small difference is important:
A cigarette claiming that it has lowest level of nicotine or a cooking oil demanding that it has least cholesterol inducing elements are ruled deceptive if the differences between other brands in terms of nicotine content or cholesterol inducing elements are found out to be insignificant.
ii. Artificial product demonstrations:
An ad that misrepresents any element of demonstration, picture, experiment or test designed to demonstrate any feature of a product or prove its superiority to another product may be ruled out as deceptive.
iii. Using an ambiguous or easily confused phrase:
The use of phrase like “government supported by a NGO may be interpreted as “government approved” or a claim like fights decay у a toothpaste could be falsely interpreted as a claim that it provides complete protection, thus making both the ads deceptive.
iv. Implying that a benefit that does not fully or partially exist:
A bulb-manufacturing company could be charged with misrepresenting the amount of light that its lower wattage, cost-saving replacement bulbs produce.
v. Implying that a product benefit is unique to a brand:
If a slimming company claims that it can only reduce fat in 10 days, then they would be charged with misrepresenting.
vi. Omitting a needed qualification:
If a retail company declares m its ad that customers will get free gift, they are charged with misrepresenting as they did not mention that only those customer with purchase of more than Rs. 1000 are eligible for this.
vii. Incorrectly implying that an endorser uses and advocates the brand:
If endorser in an ad claims that s/he uses the brand, but is found out to be the purchaser of some other completive brand. The ad may charge with misrepresenting. This is you will never find Sachin drinking Coke at least in public place.
viii. Making claim without substantiation:
A brand claiming as “50% better performer” than its competitors without any evidence will be charged with misrepresenting. Hence the newspapers or television programmes while claiming their better performance than other others always refer the authentic report by ABC, NRS, IRS or TAM
Another issue of Trade Puffing is rather permissible. Puffing takes 2 forms:
i. The first one is a subjective statement of opinion about a product’s quality using such terms as “best” “greatest” or “most useful”. Nearly all ads contain some elements of puffery. Consider the ads like “Let’s make things better” (Philips) or “The best a man can: get”(Gillette)
ii. The second form of puffery is an exaggeration extended to the point of outright spoof that is obviously not true.