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Product fit for Purpose; -What does this mean?

8 Oct

A product “fit for purpose” means just that in terms of the Consumer Protection Act. In example, if a manufacturer advertises a sunscreen product it means that if one uses the product whilst standing in sun, the product must protect you against the harmful UV rays, -subject of course to you using the product with the correct protection rating. If you did so correctly but still suffer effects of sunburn it simply means that you have been using an advertised product which does not conform to its supposedly advertised benefits. If you suffer any harmful results you may take legal redress for the resultant consequences, i.e. skin damage / cancer.

In terms of the CPA, when a cosmetic product is not “fit for its purpose” and can be legally substantiated, the act provides the consumer with “simplified redress mechanisms as no-fault liability is introduced.”

According to the CPA, the packaging and circumstances surrounding the marketing of a product must be truthful in “plain and understandable language” and clarify what the product’s intended purpose is. Words such as “healthy” or “reduces scarring” etc. on packaging may be interpreted as representations of medicinal use. Claims of “reducing wrinkles,” “revitalises skin,” “lightens skin” or “reduces cellulite,” could be indicators of purpose. So if products are found to be unfit for their purpose they can be returned within 6 months for a full refund at the seller’s risk. If a product is unsuitable, i.e. wrong pigmentation, allergic reaction etc the consumer has the right to return the product, even if opened, for a full refund within 10 days!

Unpacking the CPA and what it means for Cosmetic Marketers

25 Sep

The cosmetic industry is one of the most lucrative industries in the world which is said to have grossed £1.8 Billion in 2008 (Keynote Publications, 2009). The rapid expansion and explosion of the industry can be mainly attributed to the use of advertising to convince the consumer to purchase products. It has been found that over a third of cosmetic sales revenue is spent on advertising.

According to the Consumer Protection Act (Act 68 0f 2008) the term, “advertisement” can be defined as:

“any direct or indirect visual or oral communication transmitted by any medium, or any representation or reference written, inscribed, recorded, encoded upon or embedded within any medium, by means of which a person seeks to-

(a)  Bring attention of all or part of the public-

(i)   The existence of identity of a supplier; or

(ii)   The existence, nature, availability, properties, advantages or uses of any goods or services that are available for supply, or the conditions on, or prices at, which any goods or services are available for supply;

(b) Promote the supply of any goods or service; or

(c)  Promote any cause;” (Government Gazette, 2009:15).

So what does this mean for cosmetics companies and their respective ad agencies?

Section 29 of the Act deals with General Standards for Marketing Goods and Services; it prohibits the producer, importer, distributor, retailer or service provider to market any goods or services in a manner that is reasonably likely to imply false or misleading representations concerning the “nature, properties, advantages or uses” as well as “any other material aspect” of a product or service. This includes the efficacy and liability claims supplied by contract manufacturers and suppliers, all claims need to be proven, substantiated with the appropriate laboratory results in order for a brand to make use of the on packaging.

Section 41 deals with false, misleading or deceptive representations when marketing or promoting goods or services. This section prohibits the (direct or indirect) making of false misrepresentations about the standards, quality or characteristics of goods or services. It prohibits the use of “exaggeration, innuendo, or ambiguity as to a material fact or fail to disclose a material fact if that failure amounts to deception” and forces suppliers to disclose all relevant facts that relate to the above mentioned features.

Whilst section 29 and 41 protects the consumer, it simultaneously places a huge responsibility on advertisers and manufacturers to toe-the-line and thus prevent themselves from deviating from the intentions of the act to protect the consumer against results of dubious and misleading advertising.

Hello world!

22 May

Welcome to my blog! At fLAWless you will be informed and can participate in discsussions revolving around the implications of the Consumer Protection Act for the Cosmetics Industry.

Im sure we’ve all, at some stage of our lives, paged though magazine adverts and fallen for the claims cosmetic brands make at giving us “flawless” skin, “flawless” tans and “flawless” hair, not to mention 9 metre long eye lashes!? However since the implementation of the Consumer Protection Act, which took effect as of the 1st April this year, there has been much speculation on how this piece of legislation will be the “law” behind the beauty industry.

This law monitors the way companies relate to their consumers as well how they market and sell their products and services. The Act thus encompasses many aspects of supply relationships, including warranties, pricing, standards of service and quality, advertising, labelling, marketing and others. The Act also places a heavy emphasis on clear and understandable language to ensure that suppliers and marketers do not mislead their consumers.

The Consumer Protection Act empowers the consumer as it introduces a system of product liability on suppliers for damage caused by the supply of defective goods, i.e skin rashes, irritations and allergic reactions.

Even though the Advertsing Standards Authority ( ASA ) plays  a huge part in covering many of these areas, the CPA enables consumers to have the power as the consumer may hold any person or persons in the supply chain liable for damages.

Thus,  communication agencies (whether advertising, packaging design, PR or digital) from management to strategists, will have to review brand claims and promises so that they do not mislead consumers; and very importantly creatives will have to make sure that ad campaigns do not get their clients in trouble.

As this is such a fresh area to explore, and has a strong influence on branding and marketing, it has become the research topic for my honours thesis. To all fellow make-up lovers and branding folk out there, this is an open invitation to join in any discussion, comment and give valuable feedback. I look forward to hearing about your views and experiences! :)



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