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Ministry grills companies over truth in ads

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Billboards are seen at the Chroy Changvar bridge in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Ministry grills companies over truth in ads

The Ministry of Commerce’s General Directorate of Consumer Protection, Competition and Fraud Prevention met with six private companies on January 4 to hear arguments relating to their published advertisements, particularly regarding claims of giving gifts to consumers.

Ministry officials briefed representatives of the unnamed companies on proper procedures pertaining to advertising as stated in the Law on the Management of Quality and Safety of Products and Services and the Consumer Protection Law. Company representatives were then given an opportunity to clarify promotions related to their products.

“The meeting was conducted to raise awareness about correct advertising content pursuant to the statutes, to reduce advertising that causes negative impacts on health or the interests of consumers.

“The meeting encourages legal competition by focusing on the company programmes and the exact presents given to users,” the department said later in a Facebook post.

The directorate director-general, Phan Oun, told The Post on January 4 that he had invited 11 companies to present explanations about their ads, but only six attended. The five absent firms will be invited to another meeting on January 20.

Oun would not reveal names of the companies involved or confirm whether those firms had broken any articles of the two laws. He noted, however, that the company’s businesses concerned soft drinks and alcohol.

He said the laws require all companies to explain in a clear manner details of any plans to issue bonus gifts to users of their products. If a company advertises that there are gifts for consumers, it must demonstrate the existence of such bonuses.

“In principle, we inform the companies of their legal duties and give them an opportunity to show that they really have the gifts for users as advertised. We give them a period of six months to one year to prove the reality of their claims,” Oun said.

He said the directorate routinely studies ads of all kinds and holds meetings with pertinent firms to verify the legitimacy of their promotions. Companies are also offered recommendations regarding the use of language in advertising to avoid deceptive or harmful practices.

In the event that a company violates promises made in its ads, it would be liable to enforcement actions including fines and possibly court proceedings.

Cambodia Movement for Health (CMH) executive director Mom Kong said many product ads promise gifts to users. Regarding alcohol sales, for example, he said ads promising giveaways could attract more people to consume alcoholic products.

“If people buy just two bottles of an alcoholic drink and get two more bottles as a present, they have to drink them, too, and what will happen to them? The more they drink, the more danger they face. Therefore, I think using presents as a mean to attract customers should be banned,” Kong said.

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