Experts demand greater supervision to increase protection of consumers' rights
Experts have called for advertising standards in China to be tightened to protect consumers from misleading claims, especially for health products.
Last December, two cases came to light involving misleading advertising, suggesting a need for tighter industry regulations.
On Dec 2, Shapuaisi's claims that its eye drops could prevent and cure cataracts - which had led many elderly people to delay treatment - was challenged in an article released by medical advice website DXY.com.
On Dec 5, the president of Wanglaoji Pharmaceutical Co said that drinking its herbal tea could prolong a person's life by 10 percent. Healthcare experts later cast doubt on the claim.
Experts warn that the supervision of advertising standards needs to be tightened and strict management regulations introduced.
Wang Weiguo, a professor specializing in civil business economic law at the China University of Political Science and Law, said the government had failed to exercise effective supervision over Shapuaisi's misleading advertising.
"People had different levels of understanding about the claims made about the eye drops. The government should protect consumers, but existing regulations are inadequate," said Wang.
The departments responsible for supervision neglected their duties when the products were advertised, the professor said.
Wang is calling for the establishment of a specialized advertising standards institution and for the industry and commerce department to supervise regulation.
"Vulnerable groups need the help of powerful people to solve problems through cooperation with social organizations and awareness of public opinion," the professor said.
The revised advertising law that took effect on Sept 1, 2015, stipulates that false content and content that misleads consumers constitute misleading advertising, and that spokespersons and advertisers carry joint liability.
Advertisers are the source of the misleading information, said Liu Junhai, an expert in consumer protection law at Renmin University of China. The lack of discipline in the market undermines basic principles. Also, in abandoning basic principles of advertising, agents, advertisers and spokespersons have created an imbalance in information available to the public.
"It also infringes the consumers' right to know and their ability to choose, as well as their privacy and security. Without the right to be informed, consumers don't have access to accurate information about a company's products and services," Liu said.
Guo Xiaoling, a marketing professor at the University of International Business and Economics specializing in consumer behavior, said exaggerated claims relating to health products and nonprescription drugs were of particular concern.
"Exaggerating the effects of nonprescription drugs can easily influence consumers," Guo said.
Consumers might need to use some health products and nonprescription drugs for a long time to see results. At the beginning, it's hard for consumers to make a judgment, the professor explained.