Celeb health gurus are facing a transparency shake-up as new rules demand clearer credentials in their endorsements.
The Department of Consumer Affairs, a part of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, has introduced supplementary guidelines for individuals in the health and wellness domain, including celebrities, influencers, and virtual influencers. These guidelines serve as an extension to the previously released Guidelines for Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements in 2022, as well as the "Endorsement Know-hows!" guide booklet launched on January 20, 2023.
Developed through thorough consultations with stakeholders including the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Ayush, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), and Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), these additional influencer guidelines aim to address misleading advertisements, unsubstantiated claims, and ensure transparency in the realm of health and wellness endorsements.
Under these guidelines, certified medical practitioners and health and fitness experts holding certifications from recognized institutions are required to disclose their certified status when sharing information, endorsing products or services, or making any health-related claims. This disclosure ensures that the audience understands their professional credentials.
Celebrities, influencers, and virtual influencers who portray themselves as health experts or medical practitioners must provide clear disclaimers when sharing health-related information, endorsing products, or making health-related claims. These disclaimers should clarify that their endorsements are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
This disclosure or disclaimer is particularly crucial when discussing topics like health benefits from food items and nutraceuticals, disease prevention, treatment, cure, medical conditions, recovery methods, or immunity enhancement. Such disclosure must be prominently displayed during endorsements, promotions, or any instance where health-related assertions are made.
General wellness and health advice, such as staying hydrated, regular exercise, sufficient sleep, using sunscreen, and hair care, not directly linked to specific products, services, health conditions, or outcomes, are exempt from these regulations.
It is vital for these individuals presenting themselves as health experts or medical practitioners to differentiate between their personal opinions and professional advice, refraining from making specific health claims without substantiated evidence. They should encourage their audience to consult healthcare professionals for comprehensive information about products, services, and seeking professional medical guidance.
The Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA) will actively monitor and enforce these guidelines, with violations potentially leading to penalties under the Consumer Protection Act 2019 and relevant legal provisions. The department's commitment to safeguarding consumer interests and fostering a fair and transparent digital marketplace underscores its dedication to protecting consumers while strengthening the industry.