Misleading advertisements invite prompt action in Oman: CPA

Oman Tuesday 06/December/2022 23:45 PM
By: Times News Service
Misleading advertisements invite prompt action in Oman: CPA
Specialised department deals with misleading advertisements to protect consumers.

Muscat: Companies spend a lot of money on advertising in the hope of making their products appealing in the eyes of consumers.

At times, some of the advertisers indulge in exaggerating claims and use misleading advertisements, according to Al Fadhel bin Naseer Al Yahmadi, Director of Commercial Fraud Department at the Consumer Protection Authority (CPA).

Speaking to Al Shabiba, Al Yahmadi said: “Consumers in Oman have recently witnessed overhyping of products with advertising commercials straying too far, making claims that cannot be supported by facts or that are simply false, which is against the law. Misleading advertising is a serious detriment to consumers. In the case of advertising for health products, where audiences are more vulnerable, this fact is more reprehensible.”

A lot of consumers in Oman spend on supplements, foods and devices in the hope of improving their health and fitness. But not all of these products live up to the advertising claims that they can help people lose weight, combat disease and improve their cognitive abilities. A number of times, the health claims made for these products are false or unproven.

Also, in recent years there has been a trend in food advertising towards making unproven claims that eating certain foods can improve health and even reduce the risk of serious illnesses.

Al Yahmadi said: “Some of the advertisements are on products claimed to be healthy and others claimed to be licenced. However, there are many laws and legislations that protect consumers against such misleading commercials which are harmful to health. Advertising or marketing any product is restricted and subject to the company procuring the required licence.

“To combat such deceptive advertising, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion (MOCIIP) is working in close cooperation with the other concerned departments.”

Al Yahmadi said: “We have a specialised department that deals with any misleading advertisements at the Commercial Fraud Department of the Consumer Protection Authority. We act once we find any advertisement that is swaying the decision of the public on the basis of misleading ads. The department then follows up with fresh ads through different departments to warn the public about the product by releasing them in the newspapers, publications or through celebrities on the social media platforms.”

He added: “Once the violators are found, necessary legal actions are initiated against them.”

Al Yahmadi also said there have been few instances “when celebrities have used social media platforms in promoting misleading ads.” He added: “The number of claims and complaints related to such misleading ads received during the year 2022 amounted to nearly 600 and the violations amounted to 273 compared to 610 complaints in 2021.

“The Consumer Protection Authority follows up such ads through inspection campaigns to spot any breaches or violations without waiting to receive any complaints or calls reporting such incidents.”

On the nature of complaints received by the Consumer Protection Authority, he said there are usually complaints about misleading advertisements. “Once the advertisement is found to be misleading then necessary action is taken by the concerned department in close cooperation with the Consumer Protection Authority,” he said.