Because of deficiency in service and misleading ads, the Kerala District Commission has fined the manufacturer of a hair growth cream and the cream's brand ambassador. The store owner that sold the cream has been directed to pay the costs of the proceedings to the Complainant.
D2 is the manufacturer of a hair growth cream. D3 is the actor Anoop Menon, the brand ambassador for the cream. D3 featured in ads released by D2 where it was claimed that with the use of the cream, hair will grow three fold in 6 weeks.
The Complainant said that he was influenced by these ads and twice purchased the cream from D1's store. He used it for 7 weeks but his hair did not grow. The Complainant approached the District Commission claiming ₹500k for loss, injury and mental agony.
The Complainant said he had no reasons to disbelieve the claims made in the ads by D2 and D3.
D2 said the cream's effect is scientifically proven but it was clearly stated that the cream works differently from person to person, so results can vary.
D3 said he did not use the cream himself and had not done anything which directly influenced the Complainant to buy and use the cream. The ad story was created solely by D2 and the ads which allegedly influenced the Complainant were released without his consent as his contract with D2 had expired.
The Commission found that the Complainant was influenced by the ads to purchase the cream. He used the cream as per the directions in the ads but saw no follicle improvement.
Although D2 had said that the effectiveness of the cream might vary from person to person, this was in a packaging insert which was complex and in any event not possible to read without a magnifying glass.
The Commission came down heavily on D3 as he had attested to the effectiveness of the cream in the ads even though his case was that he had never used the cream. The Commission criticised the practice of brand ambassadors promoting products without even trying the product themselves.
The Commission found a deficiency in service and directed D2 to pay ₹10,000 to the Complainant. D3 was prohibited from acting as a brand ambassador without first being assured of the quality of products he promotes, and he was directed to pay ₹10,000 to the Complainant. D1 was ordered to pay ₹3,000 in legal costs.
A number of issues arise. For example, criticism was levelled at the legibility and ease of comprehension of the warning included in the product packaging, which suggests that a review of such warnings may be in order.
Further, although this is a decision under the Consumer Protection Act 1986, the Consumer Protection Act 2019 (CPA 2019) came into force on 15 and 23 July 2020 and this specifically defines a "misleading advertisement". The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) can take cognizance of misleading advertisements and hold a manufacturer or brand endorser liable. The CCPA can impose a fine of upto ₹1m on the manufacturer and/or endorser for false or misleading advertisements, and this can rise to ₹5m for every subsequent contravention by a manufacturer or endorser. An endorser can also be barred from endorsing any product or service for a period of upto 1 year, and upto 3 years for subsequent contraventions.
Additionally, the CPA 2019 states that a manufacturer or service provider who has issued a false or misleading advertisement "shall be" punished with imprisonment for upto 2 years and with a fine of up to ₹1m . For every subsequent offence, the imprisonment can be upto 5 years and the fine upto ₹5m.
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