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Print Edition> Forum
UPDATED: November 8, 2010 NO. 45 NOVEMBER 11, 2010
Are Celebrities Criminally Responsible For Deceptive Advertising?
The decline in celebrities' moral standards has become a serious social problem. The proposed amendment to the Advertising Law is hard on false advertising by celebrities. It is a kind of care for these famous people and will also help to maintain basic social moral standards. The enforcement of this law is eagerly expected.

Si Zhu (www.cnhubei.com): It's all right for celebrities, like movie stars, to speak for commodities. The problem is these celebrities are too often involved in deceptive advertising for various kinds of products, especially drugs and cosmetics, causing huge losses to consumers.

Commodity endorsement will bring huge profits to celebrities. But, by no means are they allowed to trample on the bottom line of not hurting consumers' interests. It's immoral to speak for deceptive products and advertising.

Because of their huge social influence, celebrity endorsement seems to be an attractive shortcut for a company and its products to become known. The public are fond of these celebrities and they tend to believe in the commodities these famous people suggest in advertising. If celebrities who speak for fake products are to be held legally accountable, it's undoubtedly good news for the many ordinary consumers.

Innocent celebrities

Liao Shuinan (People's Court Daily): First of all, celebrities usually do not have the expertise on the commodities they speak for. They don't know how to tell whether a product is helpful or harmful. It's too difficult for them to examine the quality and function of every product they speak for. Ironically, real experts are rarely asked to speak for the commodities that they are so familiar with.

Moreover, whether it is a deceptive advertisement and whether the products are fakes should be decided by quality watchdogs. If a product a certain celebrity has spoken for is found to be problematic, the accountability should be on quality watchdogs, instead of the star. However, it is always the celebrity who finally becomes the scapegoat.

Advertising regulators should also be reprimanded. Why hadn't they discovered the deceptive advertising beforehand? To finally dig out the roots of deceptive advertising, it's important to strengthen cooperation among relevant departments. They must strengthen control over various links of production, quality inspection and advertisement approval. Other practices are just temporary solutions.

Wang Pan (Beijing Youth Daily): Like ordinary citizens, celebrities don't know how to tell whether a product is good or bad. Why is there so much deceptive advertising? The basic reason is companies only need to pay a small price for any serious mistake they make. The legal punishment is too light to curb businesses' fraudulent practices. Meanwhile, the whole society is too tolerant of deceptive advertising. The public easily forgives these tricky businesses once they apologize.

To hold celebrities accountable for speaking for fake products adds to the price they will have to pay, but this will not affect the businesses producing the product to any great extent.

The public's reprimanding of the phenomenon of celebrities speaking for fake products is fundamental hatred of such kinds of products. If the businesses producing these products are not severely punished, it becomes impossible to thoroughly eradicate the roots of fake products and deceptive advertising.

Shen Bin (Oriental Morning Post): Article 222 of the Criminal Law stipulates, "Where, in violation of the state regulations, an advertisement owner, advertising agency, or advertisement carrier gives false publicity by taking the advantage of advertising a commodity or service, and when the circumstances are serious, he or she shall be sentenced to not more than two years of fixed-term imprisonment, criminal detention, and may in addition or exclusively be sentenced to a fine." Obviously, a celebrity endorser does not fall into any of the three categories. If the Criminal Law, which is superior to the Advertising Law, is not revised first, it's groundless to hold celebrities involved in false advertising to criminal accountability.

The root of deceptive advertising is not because celebrities have joined in an advertisement. The current Criminal Law says an advertisement carrier (the media) should take criminal accountability for deceptive advertising. But have you ever seen any person from the media punished because of putting out deceptive advertising? It's necessary for the media and relevant watchdogs to reflect on what they have done and are doing.

Qiao Zhifeng (hlj.rednet.cn): Compared to celebrity endorsers, the irresponsible media and regulatory departments should take more blame for broadcasting deceptive advertising. Therefore, it's useless if only celebrities are asked to take accountability while the other components are let go.

If the certain media heads and officials are held to criminal account for deceptive advertising, surely advertisements will become more trustworthy. 

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