Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Government's proposed law on celebrity endorsements makes no sense and here's why!

Imagine that someone lies to you and makes false claims on a signed contract, that they cheat you and scam you, that you're a victim of fraud.
Now imagine that the Government says that you should go to jail for 5 years because it's your responsibility to not be lied to or cheated. That instead of getting justice, what you get is jail! 

That is effectively what the Government is saying with its proposed ruling on the legal liability of celebrities for endorsements. 

The proposed legislation is just cheap populism masquerading as governance and doesn't make sense at multiple levels. Here are just some of them:

1) No celebrity has the ability to completely verify the claims of the brands they endorse. They simply do not have the resources. So every endorsement includes a clause where the brand guarantees that they are making no false claims about their products in their communication. This is a legally binding guarantee and if it is broken then it is the company that is breaking the law and the celebrity is the victim of a crime. I cannot think of a single other legislation in the democratic world where the victim of a crime is sent to jail.

2) There are many people responsible for every ad you see. There is the brand manager, the marketing head and the CEO of the company concerned. There is the advertising agency that conceptualises the ad. There is a production house that produces the ad. There is a photographer or director who shoots the ad. There are actors and models who perform in the ad. There is a media buying house that buys space to show the ad. There are newspapers and websites and TV channels and OOH companies that show the ad. In this entire chain of 15-100 people that are responsible for you seeing the ad, why is the Government only choosing to target the most famous person. Isn't everyone else equally responsible and liable? In fact I would say that the celebrity is one of the least liable because he is the only one who is a victim of fraud on a legally binding contractual basis. If the idea is to fix liability should everyone not be arrested from the CEO to the ad agency head to the channel head to the director? Why this selective persecution of the celebrity?

3) If there is any entity that is responsible for ensuring that no false claims are made to consumers, it is the relevant regulatory authority and ministry. Why is there no legal liability being enforced on the relevant ministers and government officials?

4) Some might say that try principle behind the legislation is to hold public figures accountable for the claims they in public. By that criteria shouldn't our political leaders be held accountable for the claims and promises that they make to the public. Why should the celebrity be sent to jail (when they aren't in a position to verify the claims) while politicians get away with making false promises with no consequences.

The truth is that the proposed legislation makes no sense at both legally and logically. The government would be better served if it fulfilled its regulatory responsibilities more effectively rather than look for high profile scapegoats.

Anirban Blah 
Managing Director 

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