New Advertising Law in China Combats Medical Ad Scams

On September 1, 2015, China revised its Advertising Law. According to China Briefing, it was the first time the government had amended the law in two decades and the changes will have a significant impact on advertising in the healthcare arena.

Medical Ad Scams Revealed

Unethical advertising in China was brought to the forefront in 2014 when the State Food and Drug Administration revealed that at least 18 different medical device manufacturers were blacklisted for their false advertsing practices. These manufacturers were caught using actors to portray doctors, publishing fake patient testimonials, embelishing the benefits of devices and disseminating false information about curing certain ailments.

New Advertising Law Keeps Companies Honest

As the International Medical Travel Journal reports, the new advertising law in China is comprehensive and promises severe penalties if advertisers of medical devices and services choose to ignore it. The law applies to anyone marketing in China, regardless of where the company orginates from.

Overview of Regulations

While the new advertising law has 75 sections, a large portion of it focuses on false advertising. Previously, the Advertising Law simply stated that an ad could not deceive customers or damage their interests, which allowed for uncertain interpretation in the courts. To bring more clarity, the new law goes into greater detail and provides guidance for healthcare advertisers in the following areas:

  • Ads cannot be about products or services that do not exist.
  • Ads cannot be misleading in any way or include claims about ingredients, performance and the product origin that are not relevant to the main purpose of the product or service.
  • All data, quotes, scientific research, survey results and statistics must be 100% true and verifiable.
  • The results promised by an advertisement cannot be exaggerated.
  • Spokespersons can only endorse a product or service if they are actual users of said product or service.
  • Spokespersons are prohibited in ads for medical devices or medical treatments.
  • No spokespersons under the age of 10 are allowed.
  • Advertisements are forbidden from being touted as health advice.

Severe Penalties in Place

In order to ensure compliance, harsh penalties have been put in place. If a company is found guilty of false advertising, the penalties can apply to the advertiser, agent, publisher, distributor and spokesperson (however, each party is only liable if they knew, or should have known, that the advertisement was false). These penalties include:

  • Fines up to five times the costs of the advertising itself, or up to $156,000 USD if the costs cannot be calculated or are not significant.
  • Revocation of advertising registration certifications and business licenses.
  • Possible civil liability or criminal procescution if consumers are harmed due to the deceitful advertising.

If you are considering advertising in China, make sure to consult with our healthcare experts to ensure all regulations are being met.

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