Study demands stricter advertising regulations in Spain, particularly for health and beauty products

By Andrew McDougall

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Advertising

A new study carried out by two lecturers at the Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid claims that Spanish consumers are defenceless against advertising broadcasted on the radio in areas that could affect their health, or offer a health benefit.

Study authors Clara Muela and Salvador Perelló analysed a sample of 430 different slots broadcasted 1,664 times on the main general and topical radio stations in Spain in the year 2009, and found deceptive advertising linked to health in 4 of the 22 categories that are classified in the sector: food, drink, beauty and hygiene, and health itself.


"A large part of radio health-related product advertising infringes the current law​,” Muela told Scientific Information and News Service, SINC, stating that the most common type of deception was for products that supposedly provide relief or a cure.


Study results


The study links this sample with article 4 of the Spanish Royal Decree (1907/1996) regarding Advertising and Commercial Promotion of Products and Services with the aim of determining criteria for truthfulness regarding health in advertising.


When analysing the sample of slots broadcasted, a total of 909 deceptions directly linked to products that fall under that category 'health', whilst 'beauty and hygiene' had a total of 251 unlawful messages.


"We must bear in mind that one slot can have more than one unlawful item according to the provisions of the Royal Decree. In fact it is quite common for this to happen​" Muela points out.


Current legislation states that advertising products related to health or that has health benefits, cannot be presented by any famous, well-known, symbolic or medical person."It is prohibited and anyone can see that is as common on the radio as it is on television" Muela says.


Another common practice, according to Muela, is to perform fictitious interviews with doctors, which is also banned by the Royal Decree. "Of the 16 articles in the legislation, almost all of them are ignored​" she reports.


Demand for stricter regulations


In Spain there are publicity-regulating bodies which consumers can report to regarding any issues with advertising, although fines do not exist.


"If we compare this regulating body with the one in the United Kingdom, for example, the sanctions are more discouraging and even media that transmit deceptive advertisements can be penalised by having their broadcasting or publicity licenses taken away" says Muela.


In the UK, the regulating body is the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which is independent from the government and the industry.


Spain has 'Autocontrol', which is the Association for the Regulation of Commercial Communication, but Muela is not convinced of its role.


"We must demand that legislation be fulfilled and follows the example systems in Anglo-Saxon or French countries, which are highly effective against these unlawful publicity practices. Furthermore, this should be done with agility,” she says.


“Advertising has an immediate effect, the campaigns last two or three months, and if an advertisement is not withdrawn on time, the consumer will buy the product and the damage would have already been done. The system should be more effective, pro-active and punishing.”

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