Council lauds code for advertising

30/06/2010 11:39

The Consumer Council of Fiji welcomes the General Code of Practice for Advertisements and Code for Advertising to Children in the Media Industry Development Decree 2010 as this will help curb misleading and deceptive advertising which has been a persistent problem for the Council for years.  Council has on many occasions called for some sort of regulations for advertisements because of the numerous complaints it has been receiving on deceptive and misleading advertisements.

We believe that media organizations have a responsibility to the consumers of media and should not blindly publish or broadcast any advertisements just because it brings huge money to media industry. Instead media organizations should thoroughly check that advertisements do not contain material likely to deceive or mislead consumers about any product and service. Council’s experience shows that many media organizations just publish or broadcast advertisements without giving second thought to the content.

Our recent concern has been on advertisements from unlicensed electricians in the Yellow Pages of the Fiji Directories which mislead consumers to unknowingly engage the services of unlicensed electrical contractors posing fire safety risks to personal properties of consumers. The Council's research found 29 businesses listed in the Yellow Pages to be operating without a license from the Fiji Electricity Authority (FEA). We cross-checked listed companies in the telephone book with the FEA list of licensed electrical contractors. Our research staff also posed as customers and called up the listed contractors and refrigeration companies inquiring about their electrical services.  

However, the Media Decree 2010 provides avenues to the Council to take further action in such cases. Furthermore, the general penalty which applies to such breach is maximum $10,000 or 2 years imprisonment will definitely make media organizations to take our calls seriously.

The Council also appreciates the Code for Advertising to Children. Last year the Council was successful in forcing a prominent soft drink company to pull out an advertisement from television which was showing products being used unsafely and dangerously.  However, Council believed that the television company should not have televised this advertisement in the first place because it was promoting dangerous behaviour in children.  The advertising codes will make the media organizations more responsible in selecting advertisements for broadcast and publication.  The Council believes that media organizations also need to educate themselves on the Fair Trading Decree regarding misleading advertisements.  

Meanwhile, we also laud the provision to have representative of consumers’ interests in the Media Industry Development Authority of Fiji that will be established under the new Media Decree 2010. This will ensure consumer voice will be heard and counted particularly in curbing misleading and deceptive advertisements as well as food advertising and marketing to children and infants.

This is the first time a consumer representative has been given a chance to be part of a media authority. It shows the recognition of consumers as a key stakeholder and also re-affirms the position of consumers as the ultimate end-users in the media industry.