Advertising has been criticized on many grounds. They are criticized to have corrupted social, economic, ethical and moral values. Being a dream merchant it gives hope to people through exaggerated claims. In the worlds of Charles Revson “In the factory we make cosmetics; in the drugstore we sell hope”. No doubt advertising cheats and misguides people but its importance as a media of providing information cannot be overlooked. There is need to regulate advertising so that the interests of the people and the society is protected.
Our government has enacted several laws and regulations to control the functioning of advertising. There are legal framework within which advertisers are expected to operate. In addition, there are code of conduct which are self-regulatory in nature. All those associated with advertising must possess knowledge about various laws and regulations including code of conduct so that they do not violate any provisions of the law. Take the case of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). It protects the creative and innovative work done by people in the area of their specialization and competency. Indian Copyright Act, 1957 protects IPR. The following are some of the important Acts and Codes practiced in India.
(1) The Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act 1954: This Act controls advertisements about drugs so that they do not make tall claims. Drugs promising magical cure are not allowed to advertise. With the exception of over-the-counter drugs, no drugs will be sold unless prescribed by a registered medical prescription. Ads referring to miscarriage in a woman or improvement of sexual performance or guarantee for cure or prevention of any disease cannot be advertised.
(2) The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act 1986: This Act states that no woman will be shown indecent manner whether in ads, writings, paintings, publications, photographs or in any other manner. The term indecent has subjective interpretation. It is explained with reference to time, situation and culture of the society. The Act prescribes that women should be shown in ads in a decent and respectable manner.
(3) The Consumer Protection Act, 1986: This Act safeguards the interests of consumers. It has established consumer councils for the prompt settlement of consumer disputes. This is an umbrella Act. Consumers, their representatives, consumer organisations and the government can complain against poor quality of service, negligence of medical treatment, unfair trade practices, failure of educational institutions to impart good quality education etc. This is a landmark legislation because it makes consumers aware of their rights and ensures economical and speedy redressal of consumer grievances.
(4) The Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles and Infant Foods (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 1992: With a view to promote breastfeeding and discourage use of formula milk and related products, our government has passed the above mentioned Act. With effect from January 1, 2004 promotion of infant foods on TV, radio, newspapers and other media has been banned. This Act was passed to popularize the age old India practice of breastfeeding the children and to discourage the sale of tinned baby food which was aggressively advertised and influencing young mothers. It is compulsory for every tinned baby food to carry the message Mother’s Milk is Best for Your Baby. Superiority of mother’s milk must prevail. Violation of any provision of the Act will attract imprisonment upto 3 years and/or a fine upto Rs. 5,000.
(5) The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995: This Act has provided clear cut guidelines about the kind of ads that cable TV operators can show. Ads relating to cigarettes, liquor, alcohol and gold jewellery cannot be transmitted. The Act ensures that a certain decorum is maintained on the higher values of life relating to morality, decency, racial, religious and statutory requirements. At the same time the Act establishes that utmost care should be taken to show care of children, treatment to women, protect children from ill effect of advertising and to display only honest and factual information. The Act provides that ads must not mingle with the main performance. The ads must create an impression of separate presentation e.g., in case of TV the lower part of screen is used to carry message.
(6) Trade Marks Act, 1999: This Act was implemented on 15th September 2003. A trademark can be a word, slogan, picture, design, shape of a product or container or a symbol that is utilized not only to identify the products but also to distinguish them. Trade mark is commonly used to promote the sale of products. It is desirable and advisable to get the trade mark registered. Trademarks can be registered for 10 years. It can be renewed from time to time to get continued protection from pilferage or imitation of trademark.
(7) Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003: Advertising tobacco products is banned in India. Both direct and indirect ads in any media is banned. Display of ads on cigarette pack is allowed. Tobacco products cannot be sold to minors. The Act restricts selling of tobacco products within 100 yard radius of educational institutions, Public service advertising is allowed by government agencies and healthcare providers showing harmful effect of tobacco.