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Consumer Authority of India to publish notices against misleading advertisers

The motive is to increase awareness regarding the unethical trade practices used by consumer-oriented entities to lure consumers.

India’s consumer protection authority is set to publicly identify misleading advertisers, two officials related to the matter reported to Mint.

The officials confirmed that notices and orders directed at entities engaged in deceptive advertising, like coaching institutions or service providers, are slated for public display on both the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) and its overseeing ministry’s websites- the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.

According to the Consumer Protection Act of 2019, an ad is misleading if it lies about a product or service, makes false promises, tricks people about its quality, involves unfair practices, or hides important details on purpose.

The officials elaborated that the current unavailability of notices and directives targeting misleading advertisers hampers consumer awareness. Making these public will empower consumers to discern and decide wisely. Additionally, the ministry intends to conduct a study gauging the effects of CCPA's updated guidelines.

Currently, the initiative is in its planning phase and will proceed after consultations with department officials have concluded. While CCPA's efforts have partially reduced misleading advertisements, even notable entities have faced actions. Despite this, violations of its guidelines persist.

In June 2022, CCPA introduced the guidelines for Preventing Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements, leading to various notices, penalties, and actions against violators. For instance, in November, CCPA issued 20 notices to IAS coaching institutes, penalizing eight among them.

“The department is also planning to conduct an impact assessment survey to evaluate the outcome of notices and penalties issued earlier against entities involved in misleading consumers by making false claims," the official added.

Manisha Kapoor, CEO of ASCI, highlighted the council's evolution in crafting detailed guidelines for various sectors, providing stakeholders with clearer directives on acceptable practices. Regarding dark patterns, Kapoor mentioned that a public consultation document preceded the finalisation of the guidelines earlier this June. She emphasised that, bolstered by CCPA's support, dark patterns have unequivocally become illegal.

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