Companies running misleading TV ads to face the music -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Companies running misleading TV ads to face the music

By Saad Hasan

KARACHI: Two top Pakistani regulators plan to penalise the companies, which use misleading television commercials to sell products and the penalty can go up to 10 percent of total revenues, senior officials said on Tuesday.

The Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) and Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) will penalise marketers, who lie about attributes of a product and draw unrealistic comparison with competitors, they said.

Pemra will scan Pakistani television channels to detect misleading commercials, which make use of high illiteracy to shore up sales, they said speaking at a seminar on “Deceptive Marketing Practices.”

Chairperson CCP Rahat Kaunain Hassan said that four different companies including a cellular service provider and a bank have been penalised for misleading their customers.

“CCP is basically a watchdog to ensure competition but tackling deceptive marketing is also part of our mandate,” she said. “My institution just got a legal cover. However, we will soon be investigating more cases.”

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) at the commission allows consumers to register complaints, she said. “Please tell us about deceptive products. But also help us figuring out impact of any faulty product, its consumers and the size of market.”

Besides the CCP law, there are twelve other legislations, which deal with deceptive marketing practice and have provisions for punishment as well, she said.

The law prohibits certain marketing practices, which includes distribution of false or misleading information that may harm business interests of another company, said Hassan.

In recent years, penetration of TV channels and rush for revenues has paved for makers of low-cost products to capture larger audience. From herbal medicines that promise cure of diabetes to drugs that help increase height- everything is being sold on TV, the seminar was told.

Dominant role of cable operators in distributing the channels has made it harder for Pemra to regulate such commercials, said Director General of Pemra Abdul Basit Khan.

He said that judiciary is now taking keen interest in monitoring the role of cable operators. “We have had a meeting with them just days back and I am a sure the operators will work out a code of conduct on the matter.”

“Pemra can not control it all alone,” Khan said. “All sort of commercials are being made these days. No one is checking the authenticity of the information they relay. You can take example of property commercials. How many of them have gotten the NOC of relevant authorities?”

A dedicated team is being put together at Pemra to look into problem of misleading commercials, he said. “Results will start to come in few days.”

However, the passage of 18th amendment in the constitution has made job of the regulators difficult, explained Zahid Jamil, a lawyer. “The amendment has transferred the prerogative of consumer protection to the provinces. Laws are overlapping.”

Sindh still awaits passage of Consumer Protection Bill from the provincial parliamentarians, he said. “The bill lapsed years back. We need it immediately.”

Consumer protection laws were formed after Asian Development Bank made the legislation part of a loan. Need for such laws were not felt by the government. The seminar was organized by Helpline Trust. Among others, it was attended by Saiduzzaman Siddiqui, former Chief Justice, and Ali Butt of Pakistan Broadcasters Association.
Source: The News