To protect the consumer against misleading advertisements a number of laws have been passed all over the world. In India, it was started in 1868, when commercial activities were included under the purview of the Indian Penal Code. With growing competitiveness in the market & growth of consumer awareness, additions and amendments are being introduced in the legal system to control the erring advertisers. Some of the major laws are listed here:
INDIAN PENAL CODE, 1868: With regard to advertising, the IPC provides that “a book, pamphlet, paper writing, drawing, painting, representations, figures or any other object shall be deemed to be obscene if it is lascivious or appeals to prurient interests or if its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read see, or hear the message contained or embodied in it.” The code, though does not refer to advertising in particular, covers advertising as part of the activities listed above.
INDIAN CONTRACT ACT, 1872: This Act governs the rights and duties of advertising agencies.
THE PUNJAB EXCISE ACT, 1914: This Act prohibits advertising offering or soliciting the use of liquor in any for in the area of Punjab. An extension of this Act also prohibits such advertisements in the Union Territory of Delhi.
THE DRUGS AND COSMETICS ACT, 1940: This Act enables the Government to regulate the import, manufacture, distribution and sale of drugs and cosmetics.
DRUGS AND MAGIC REMEDIES (OBJECTIONABLE ADVERTISEMENTS) ACT, 1954: This Act prohibits publication of objectionable advertisements in newspapers and magazines or otherwise relating to alleged cures for venereal diseases, sexual stimulants and alleged cures for diseases and conditions peculiar to women. The Act controls drug advertisements and also advertisements of remedies stated to have magical qualities known as magic remedies. In this case an advertisement includes ‘any notice, circular, label, wrapper or other documents and announcement made by any means or producing or transmitting light, sound or smoke’.
YOUNG PERSON (HARMFUL PUBLICATION) ACT, 1956: This Act provides ‘penalty for a person who sells, lets to hire, distributes, publicly exhibits or in any manner puts into circulation any harmful publication or for purpose of sale, hire distribution, public exhibition or circulation, prints, makes known by any means whatsoever, that any publication harmful for young people.
COPYRIGHT ACT, 1957: This Act, which protects the copyright, also protects the right of the copywriter and other creators of advertisements.
MONOPOLIES AND RESTRICTIVE TRADE PRACTICES ACT 30, 1984: Popularly known as the MRTP Act, this Act and its amendments have made special provisions for regulating misleading advertisements and unfair trade practices etc.