To deal with misleading advertising, and false claims, and ensure transparency, the Department of Consumer Affairs has released a comprehensive set of guidelines for celebrities, influencers, and online influencers in the field of health and wellness.
According to the guidelines, qualified medical professionals and health experts must identify themselves as such when providing information, endorsing goods or services, or making any health-related claims. Further, celebrities, influencers and virtual influencers who portray themselves as health experts or medical practitioners should ensure that their endorsements are accompanied by disclaimers that make it clear to the public that the endorsements shouldn’t be used in place of expert medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
The Department said that the new guidelines are an extension to the Guidelines for Prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements, 2022. It was added that while making claims about matters such as health benefits (including those from food and nutraceuticals), illness prevention, treatment, medical problems, recovery techniques, immune boosting, etc., such a declaration or disclaimer is necessary.
It is stated that general wellness and health advice like ‘Drink Water and Stay Hydrated’, ‘Exercise Regularly and Be Physically Active’, etc. not linked to specific goods or services or that do not target a particular health condition or result, would be exempt from the regulations. However, it is essential for these celebrities, influencers, and virtual influencers who pose as medical professionals or health experts to make a clear distinction between their personal opinions and expert counsel and to avoid making specific health claims without supporting evidence.
The press release dated August 10, 2023, specifies that the said guidelines would be actively monitored and enforced by the Department and non-compliance with the guidelines could lead to penalties under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 and other relevant laws.