Supreme Court Holds Influencers Accountable in Misleading Advertisements

The court's focus on transparency and accountability in endorsements, particularly in the food and health sectors, reflects a broader effort to protect consumers


Social media influencers and celebrities are now under scrutiny from the Supreme Court, which stated on Tuesday that they would share equal responsibility for endorsing products or services in misleading advertisements. The court also directed the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution to submit a fresh affidavit on the actions taken by the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) against false or misleading ads, especially in the food and health sectors. Additionally, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has been instructed to file a similar affidavit.

The bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah emphasized that advertisers, advertising agencies, and endorsers are equally responsible for issuing false and misleading advertisements. They highlighted the impact of endorsements by public figures, influencers, and celebrities in promoting products and stressed the importance of acting responsibly in endorsing any product during advertisements. The court referenced the CCPA guidelines, which call for influencers to be transparent about paid endorsements.

The court emphasized that celebrities and influencers should not abuse the trust placed in them by the public. It highlighted guidelines that require endorsers to have adequate information or experience with the specific product being endorsed to ensure that it is not deceptive.

In addition to these directives, the court mandated that broadcasters file self-declarations on the Broadcast Seva portal operated by the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Furthermore, the Central government was ordered to establish a new portal for filing such self-declarations for advertisements in print media within four weeks. The next hearing on the matter is scheduled for May 14.

The Supreme Court also criticized the Indian Medical Association (IMA) for comments made by its president RV Asokan during an interview regarding the court’s observations in the case involving Patanjali’s misleading advertisements against allopathy practitioners. The court expressed disappointment in Asokan’s statements and reminded the IMA to maintain decorum, especially given the sensitivity of the ongoing legal proceedings.

Meanwhile, Acharya Balkrishna, the managing director of Patanjali Ayurved, filed a complaint against Asokan’s interview, alleging interference with the court’s proceedings and seeking action against the IMA president. Patanjali was directed to take down misleading advertisements running online and remove prohibited products from stores.

In another development, the Centre informed the Supreme Court that it would withdraw the letter sent by the Ministry of Ayush to all State and UT Licensing Authorities, which advised against taking action against ads related to Ayurvedic and Ayush products under Rule 170 of the Drugs and Cosmetic Rules, 1945. The court had criticized the government for issuing this letter, questioning how it could delay implementing a law and whether this was permissible under the constitution. The court is hearing a petition filed by the Indian Medical Association against Patanjali’s advertisements attacking allopathy and making claims about curing certain diseases.

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