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Government issues detailed guidelines on ads targeting children

Under the 'Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and necessary due diligence for endorsement of advertisement guidelines, 2022', the consumer affairs ministry has provided for 19 provisions pertaining only to advertisements targeting children

Seeking to regulate misleading advertisements targeting children, the government has issued detailed guidelines that prohibit companies from making false claims on health and nutritional benefits, persuading kids to buy goods and services with promotional gifts, and developing negative body image in children.

Under the 'Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and necessary due diligence for endorsement of advertisement guidelines, 2022', the consumer affairs ministry has provided for 19 provisions pertaining only to advertisements targeting children.

The new guidelines have come into force on June 10, 2022, and the action in case of violation will be dealt with under the central consumer protection act.

Briefing media, consumer affairs secretary Rohit Kumar Singh said elaborate provisions have been made to prevent misleading ads targeting children following recommendations by the women and child development ministry.

Elaborating, regulator Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) chief commissioner and additional secretary in the consumer affairs ministry Nidhi Khare said: "The guidelines enumerate various factors to be considered in publishing advertisements specifically targeting children."

According to the new guidelines, those advertisements will be considered misleading if they claim any health or nutritional claims or benefits without being adequately and scientifically substantiated by a recognised body.

They will be considered misleading ads if they "develop negative body image" in children or give any impression that such goods, product or service is better than the natural or traditional food which children may be consuming.

They will be treated as misleading ads if they condone or encourage practices that are detrimental to children's physical health or mental wellbeing and if they exaggerate what is attainable by an ordinary child using the product being marketed.

Children-targeting advertisements should not claim that consumption of a product advertised will have an effect on enhancing intelligence or physical ability or bring exceptional recognition without any valid substantiation or adequate scientific evidence.

Any advertisement which offers promotional gifts to persuade children to buy goods, products or services without necessity or promotes illogical consumerism should be discouraged.

Any advertisement that exploits children's susceptibility to charitable appeals should explain the extent to which their participation will help in any charity-linked promotions.

Advertisements will be considered misleading if they resort to promotions that require a purchase to participate and include a direct exhortation to make a purchase addressed to or targeted at children.

According to the guidelines, advertisements for junk foods, including chips, carbonated beverages and such other snacks and drinks shall not be advertised during a programme meant for children or on a channel meant exclusively for children

Besides children-targeted advertisements, the new guidelines have also provided clarity on bait advertisements, surrogate advertisements and free claims advertisements.

Further, the guidelines provide various duties of manufacturers, service providers, advertiser and advertising agencies. It specifies due diligence to be carried out while endorsing in advertisements besides bringing transparency in disclaimers in advertisements including disclosure of material connection.

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