Consumers Beware!

Ads cannot promise what they don’t deliver

Ads cannot promise what they don’t deliver

Photo for representation only

Pushpa Girimaji

I have been losing a lot of hair recently and on seeing the advertisement of an oil that promised to stop hair fall and promote growth, I bought it despite its high price. However, I was dismayed on using the oil for two months. It neither stopped my hair fall nor promoted growth as promised. Besides losing the hard-earned money that I spent on it, I also felt great disappointment at the results and want to take action against the manufacturer. What kind of relief can I seek before the consumer court?

Under the Consumer Protection Act, you cannot only ask for withdrawal of the offending advertisement, but also request the court to direct issuance of ‘corrective advertisement’.

In other words, the court can ask the manufacturer to issue fresh advertisements to neutralise the effect of the misleading advertisement. The court can also direct the manufacturer to issue these corrective advertisements for the same length of time the false advertisements were published or aired. I always feel that this is a highly deterrent provision against false and misleading advertisements because the manufacturer will have to spend a huge amount of money on advertisements that actually show him and his product in very poor light.

In addition, you can ask for refund of the money spent by you on the oil, besides compensation for the disappointment and mental anguish suffered by you. You can also ask for costs of litigation.

Under the new consumer protection law, you can also lodge a complaint against the product and the advertisement before the Central Consumer Protection Authority. It has wide-ranging powers to deal with such advertisements and can not only order withdrawal of such advertisements, but also impose heavy penalty on the manufacturer. It can even sentence an offender to undergo imprisonment for up to two years. Under the new law, even an endorser is liable.

Can you quote a recent consumer court decision in a matter such as this?

On December 29, 2020, the Thrissur (Kerala) District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission awarded compensation of Rs20,000 to a consumer on a complaint similar to yours. His allegation was that on seeing an advertisement of an ayurvedic hair cream endorsed by Malayalam film actor Anoop Menon, promising luxurious hair growth in six weeks, he bought the oil. But even after using it for seven weeks, he found no positive change.

The Commission directed Dhatri Ayurveda Private Ltd, the manufacturer of the hair cream, as well as the endorser, Menon, to pay Rs10,000 each to the consumer for making false claims. The Commission also directed the chemist who sold the oil to pay Rs3,000.

According to the order of the Commission, the complaint goes back to 2012 when the complainant bought the oil on seeing the advertisement featuring the Malayalam actor. It said: “Hair growth is guaranteed. Just within six weeks, the result will be threefold.” When questioned, the actor admitted that he had not used the hair cream and was under the impression that he was promoting a hair care and protection product.

Criticising the actor for endorsing a product without checking the veracity of the claim, the Commission not only asked him to pay Rs10,000 to the consumer, but also warned him against promoting a product in future without ascertaining the truth of the claim.

The Commission also dismissed the argument of the defendants that the package insert warned that the effectiveness of the oil may vary from person to person. Pointing to the minute print of the brochure, the Commission said that it needed a magnifying glass to read that. (Francis Vadakkan Vs The Proprietor, A-One Medicals, CC NO 345 of 2012)

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