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Consumer protection authority advisory step in right direction, brands must stay away from unrealistic claims, say experts

With the Central Consumer Protection Authority warning brands of serious punishment for misleading ads that claim to ‘boost immunity’, ‘kill 99.99% germs’ amid the Covid-19 pandemic, experts hope brands will fall in line quickly

Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in March 2020, several brands from categories such as water purifiers, paints, floor cleaner, apparel, disinfectants and furniture have brought out advertisements, claiming that they provide immunity from the coronavirus by killing germs or boosting the immune system.

Even brands not from related categories have jumped on to the bandwagon by offering new products.

In the light of such ads, the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) recently issued an advisory on the false claims made by brands. The advisory warned manufacturers and commercial establishments against taking advantage of the pandemic and resorting to ‘misleading advertisements’ to promote their products.

Making claims such as ‘it boosts immunity’, ‘kills 99.99% germs’, ‘virus killing’ and ‘protects from Covid-19’ without any scientific credibility will be liable for punishment.

Sandeep Goyal

“CCPA is a body backed by the government, unlike the ASCI that had no teeth. Taking chances with CCPA advisories could prove costly and detrimental to brands that do not fall in line. I think most brands will comply and quickly fall in line,” said Sandeep Goyal, Chairman, Mogaé Media, welcoming the CCPA advisory.

Samit Sinha

Samit Sinha, Founder, Managing Partner, ‎Alchemist Brand Consulting, is optimistic that such advertisements will be discontinued immediately, and packaging labels will be revised as soon as possible.

“All brands that make definitive claims in their communications and packaging without incontrovertible evidence should be deterred in the severest possible manner, especially when one is misleading consumers with unsubstantiated promises in instances where the consequences can be serious. It is sad that many brands do not refrain from making such claims voluntarily and it is only the threat of punitive action that make them desist, which I believe will now happen following the CCPA advisory,” he added.

Lloyd Mathias

Business Strategist, Lloyd Mathias, said this move was long overdue.

There have been many brands across various product categories — mattresses, apparel, food, beverages, personal hygiene products —that have unfairly tried to cash in on the pandemic.

“I do hope that this clear directive from CCPA will deter such brands. The CCPA may need to take action against a few defaulters to drive compliance. While ASCI has tried to restrain a few brands that made misleading claims, the CCPA has the power to ensure compliance in a manner ASCI cannot. This move will force brands to comply and will deter others who have unfairly tried to take advantage. Claims on packaging too will need to be dealt with,” he said.

Harish Bijoor

Harish Bijoor, Brand Guru and Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc., in fact, said the advisory should have come several months ago.

“The immunity word is being bandied around and misused by many. In the case of many brands, it results in a clear case of fishing in troubled waters. Literally amounts to fishing on the fear sentiment of consumers. Must be stopped for sure. It is marketing opportunism at its worst,” he said.

Responding to the same, a spokesperson from Mother Dairy, (the brand had launched Haldi Milk to boost immunity), said, “Mother Dairy has always been at the forefront of innovation and as a responsible organisation has always been in compliance of norms and procedures prescribed by various authorities. Testament to this is our famed Haldi Milk, which has been developed based on self-care guidelines and recommendations of the Ministry of AYUSH, as a preventive health measure. As a leading dairy brand of the country, it has been our constant endeavour to bring out products based on strong consumer insight and their needs.”

Madhur Acharya

Madhur Acharya, Head of Marketing, Wow Skin Science (it had launched immunity booster capsules), said the brand has no plans to pull down its advertisements at the moment as none of them are misleading to the consumer.

He said, however, some of the brands out there would be required to prove their claims with relevant data before being aired.

“Our communication has always been transparent and honest. We as a beauty brand owe that to our customers. We never made any claims that are not backed by data. We ensure that proper regulatory norms and customer feedback are taken into consideration before we make any claims. Take our packaging for example. We have put everything related to the product there. We have a strict packaging content sanitisation policy. Going forward, brands will have to work better on their packaging content for sure,” he added.

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