Centre unveils endorsement guidelines; celebrity must disclose gains details

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By Our Special Correspondent

New Delhi, January 20: Seeking to codify guidelines for celebrity and influencers on endorsement of goods, the Centre on Friday called for full disclosures of the gains made by the persons endorsing the promotion.

“Celebrity and influencers must disclose any material connection with the advertiser. This includes not only benefits and incentives, but also monetary or other compensation, trips or hotel stays, media barters, coverage and awards, free products with or without conditions, discounts, gifts and any family or personal or employment relationship,” said Rohit Kumar Singh, Secretary Department of Consumer Affairs, while releasing the “Endorsement Know-hows”.

Film star Amitabh Bachchan had been mired in controversy over endorsement of biscuits in his tele serial ‘Kaun Banega Karopati’. There has equally been an explosion of social media influencers who are resorting to endorse goods, while also amplifying slogans as part of the marketing outreach. The corporate and others are now cashing in on the large followers base of the social media influencers to endorse their goods and products, besides brands.

The “Endorsement Know-hows” specify that disclosures must be prominently and clearly displayed in the endorsement, making them extremely hard to miss. Any celebrity, influencer or virtual influencer who has access to an audience and can influence their purchasing decisions or opinions about a product, service, brand, or experience.

“Endorsements must be made in simple, clear language and terms such as ‘advertisement’, ‘sponsored’, or ‘paid promotion’ can be used. They should not endorse any product or service and service in which due diligence has been done by them or that they have not personally used or experienced,” added the guidelines.

The guide is released in alignment with the guidelines set by the Consumer Protection Act of 2019. The Act established guidelines for protecting consumers from unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements. The Department of Consumer Affairs has published Guidelines for prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements, 2022 on 9th June 2022.

These guidelines outline the criteria for valid advertisements and the responsibilities of manufacturers, service providers, advertisers, and advertising agencies. These guidelines also touched upon the celebrities and endorsers. It states that misleading advertisement in any form, format or medium is prohibited by law.

The guide aims to ensure that individuals do not mislead their audiences when endorsing products or services and that they are in compliance with the Consumer Protection Act and any associated rules or guidelines. ‘Endorsement Know-hows’ was unveiled by the Centre in response to the rapidly growing digital world, where advertisements are no longer limited to traditional media like print, television, or radio. With the increasing reach of digital platforms and social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, there has been a rise in the influence of virtual influencers, in addition to celebrities and social media influencers. “This has led to an increased risk of consumers being misled by advertisements and unfair trade practices by these individuals on social media platforms,” said Singh.

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