Celebrities who endorse ads for products they don’t try may need to start being a guinea pig in China.
On Monday, an updated draft of the Central Party’s advertisement law submitted to lawmakers said that celebrities who are paid to be spokespeople for products, should try the product before they represent it, according to state media. The goods and services celebrities endorse need to be “based on facts,” the draft says.
False endorsements have been a big problem in China and across Asia. In 2006, Hong Kong actress Carina Lau was sued after she endorsed a luxury Japanese skincare cream, which she said could reduce wrinkles by 50% after a month of use. Later, it was discovered that the cream contained harmful chemicals, including toxic metals chromium and neodymium, and that some consumers had adverse reactions to the cream. (The Japanese skincare brand, SK-II, was fined 200,000 yuan, or about $32,500, for false advertising.)
More recently, Jackie Chan endorsed one of Bawang International’s anti-hair loss herbal shampoos. After a Hong Kong-based magazine revealed that the shampoo contained a substance that may cause cancer, Mr. Chan responded. “I have always been very careful with what products I endorse. But there are some media who are specifically gunning for me and a few other artistes, I am not sure why, as though it is better that we all just died.” .(For its part, Bawang said its products had passed quality tests and that many shampoos and cleaning products contain small traces of carcinogens.)
The revision comes on the heels of last year’s revised Law on Protection of the Rights and Interests of Consumers, which states that celebrities who appear in misleading commercials, and the media that broadcast the ads, are legally liable.
Monday’s updated law reinforces celebs’ legal liability and says their “illegal income” can be confiscated if they stump for false advertising. They could also face hefty fines.
But it isn’t exactly clear how the law will be enforced or whether the government can actually monitor whether celebrities actually try out the products they promote.