A “magic” serum that can prevent Covid-19?

—Terina Nie

To recover from the economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 epidemic, many companies began trying to promote their products by claiming that they had special functions to prevent or decrease the risks of infection. Such false advertisements are being severely cracked down on by the Administration for Market Regulation of Shanghai (the “AMR”). This article will briefly discuss one rather typical false advertisement case recently punished by AMR.

Case introduction

A famous chain of beauty and hair salons launched a ‘new’ serum product in February of this year. In the advertisement published on its WeChat account, the salon claimed that “Covid-19 is mainly infected and spread through respiratory tract. Our serum has the function of anti-inflammatory and bactericidal and can resist the entry of external viruses into the respiratory tract and reduce the invasion risk of viruses”.

However, according to the product test report, the main ingredients of this serum were artemisia argyi oil and ginger root oil, which have no anti-inflammatory functions, nor can they prevent the Covid-19 virus. The content of the advertisement was clearly inconsistent with reality.

So, the Shanghai AMR of Yangpu District ordered this salon to stop publishing this advertisement and imposed a fine of 500,000 yuan.

Analysis

According to Article 28 of the PRC Advertisement Law, an advertisement is false if the information it contains on products are inconsistent with the actual situation in terms of the performance, function, place of origin, purpose, quality, specification, ingredients, price, producer, valid period, sales, awards of the products, or in terms of any guarantee relating to the products or services, and the inconsistency reasonably has a substantial influence on whether people purchase the product.

In the case above, the function of the products described in the advertisement is inconsistent with the actual situation and could reasonably mislead consumers who want to buy a product with anti-inflammatory functions.

Implications
When publishing advertisements, it is a must that the content of the advertisement is true. It is illegal to claim that an ordinary product (e.g. cosmetics, purifier, and normal food) has any functionality related to the treatment of diseases, or express or imply that an ordinary product has the capability to prevent or cure covid-19. Similarly, it is also illegal to claim that normal protective products (such as masks or goggles) are in line with the standards of medical or special protective products.

If you are a consumer and have encountered such advertisements, please do not hesitate to dial 12315 to report them to the AMR. If you are seeking to publish an advertisement but are not sure whether it is in consistent with PRC Advertisement Law, please feel free to contact DaWo’s lawyers. We are ready to help you at your convenience.

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