Advertising is a very useful tool for firms that want to get their good or service out in the public. However, since firms sometimes misuse their powers of advertisement, and trick potential consumers, the EU and Spain have made sure that there are laws to guarantee that consumers remain protected.
Article 3 of The Spanish General Advertising Law 34/1998 of 11 November 1998 defines what constitutes false or deceptive advertising. Article 4 states that any advertising that utilizes production techniques that border on provocation of the senses and can act on the target audience without being consciously perceived is deceptive. This prohibition applies to both goods and services. Article 6(1) provides that actions against illegal advertising are mostly established from unfair competition, under Chapter IV of Law 3/1991 of 10 January 1991.
Several pieces of information are essential knowledge for consumers. Therefore, the producer must ensure that all this information is on or is included with the good or service that consumers purchase. Geographic origin is one of those pieces of information that must be disclosed truthfully. Article 13(1(a)) of Law 26/1984 of 19 July 1984 provides that goods and services available to consumers and users must incorporate, with certainty and truth, sufficient information about the essential characteristics of its origin, nature, composition, and purpose. Wine products are subject to its own strict rules contained in Royal Decree 157/1988 of 22 February 1988. Other food products are covered by Royal Decree 728/88 and Royal Decree 1573/88 of Europe.
Another aspect of a good or service that must be disclosed is the product information. There are plenty of regulations concerning labelling and packaging. These regulations are European, Spanish and regional. However, some of these regulations are voluntary. In other words, it is a bit more lenient than other pieces of information about the product.
Surely enough it can be obvious to tell when an advertisement is being misleading, but the issue remains who defines what is deceptive. Spanish law defines misleading advertising as an advertisement that is capable of inducing errors, misleading recipients or users, including affecting their economic behaviour, causing damage, or likely to cause damage to a competitor.
In conclusion, there are different laws that try to ensure that the amount of misleading or deceptive advertisements stays at an all-time low and that consumers remain protected and know what they are getting themselves into when they purchase a product. Companies should therefore consider the law applicable in each country to avoid complaints from consumers.
Justine Matthys & Karl H. Lincke
This article is not considered as legal advice