Over the years the Advertising Code Committee has made a number of general recommendations on the following topics:
a. recruitment campaigns for salesmen/distributors
b. magnetic health bracelets
c. use of the words ‘comparable store sale price’
d. statement of gross or net measurements
e. the use of superlatives
g. the use of the term ‘recommended price’
h. advertising for branches
i. pictures of the product concerned
j. lodging agencies
k. personnel advertisements (withdrawn)
l. children’s fireworks
N.B. On 5 June 1996 the authority of the Advertising Code Committee to make general recommendations was withdrawn. Currently rules shall only be formulated by the administrative body of the Advertising Code Authority.
a. Recruitment campaigns for salesmen/distributors
In the opinion of the Advertising Code Committee, advertisements used to recruit salesmen or distributors sometimes wrongly create the impression that applicants are being recruited for a job with prospects of a very attractive salary when in fact the work will be performed on a commission basis, whether or not the potential employee has been obliged to first make an advance investment or purchase, frequently entirely at his own risk.
For this reason, the Committee recommends advertisers and media to ensure that such advertisements:
1. clearly state:
a. the future relationship between the advertiser and the salesman/distributor: in particular, it must be explicitly stated whether or not this person will be working as an employee.
b. whether or not an investment or purchase has to be made by the salesman/distributor and if so, the size of the investment.
2. mention potential earnings with the greatest caution. Raising unreal expectations will be avoided. The Committee requests that parties concerned take the above into account and do not place advertisements that do not meet the requirements.
b. Magnetic health bracelets
It has become clear to the Advertising Code Committee that magnetic health bracelets are increasingly advertised. The majority of these advertisements state that the bracelets are beneficial to one’s health and that wearing the bracelets has a beneficial effect on certain diseases, such as rheumatism, high and low blood pressure, neuralgia, lumbago, headache, nervousness and fatigue. The advertisements in question, also often refer to a certificate, issued by the Ministry of Public Health in the country of origin.
The Committee holds that this form of advertising is contrary to the Dutch Advertising Code, as a link between wearing the bracelet and the health of the wearer has not been scientifically established and it has also not been sufficiently established that the governmental certificates in question guarantee the beneficial effect of the bracelets.
The Committee recommends that advertisements advertising such magnetic bracelets should not be placed or should be refused if a link is made between health and medical grounds for wearing these bracelets and where governmental certificates are mentioned, unless these advertisements are provided with a valid authorization stamp issued by the Inspection Board for the Public Commendation of Registered Drugs (KOAG) and the Inspection Board for the Commendation of Health Products (KAG).
c. Use of the words ‘comparable store sale price’
It has become clear to the Advertising Code Committee that advertisements and catalogues for products or free gifts (‘premiums’) that are not actually being sold in stores indicate the ‘comparable store sale price’ and specify the price in decimals. The Committee holds that this form of advertising is contrary to Article 7 of the Dutch Advertising Code, as it is impossible to determine the exact comparable store price of products that are not being sold in stores. Wherever a comparable store sale price of such products or premiums is mentioned, the value shall be given in round figures preceded by the word ‘approximately’.
The Committee recommends that advertisements that do not comply with the above should not be placed or should be refused, as the case may be.
d. Statement of gross or net measurements
It has become clear to the Advertising Code Committee that advertisements indicating the volume or weight of the products offered, e.g. for refrigerators or deep freezers, fail to mention whether the given measurements are gross or net measurements.
The Committee considers this form of advertising wrong and contrary to the Dutch Advertising Code. The Committee recommends that advertisements that mention volume or weight should clearly indicate whether the measurements are gross or net measurements and advertisements that do not comply with the above should be refused or not placed.
e. Use of superlatives
The Advertising Code Committee took cognizance of the fact that in many advertisements where a price is mentioned the advertiser often states that its product is “the cheapest”, “the least expensive” or as having “the lowest” prices in comparison to those of its competitors.
Given the fact that in almost all cases, it will be physically impossible for an advertiser to perform a validity check and to produce evidence thereof, such a statement will almost always be misleading.
The Committee therefore recommends that advertisements, which use superlatives with respect to price, are not placed or are refused, as the case may be.
The Advertising Code Committee is regularly confronted with advertisements containing the words “guarantee” or “guaranteed” while the scope, purport, conditions and significance of the guarantee are not expressed in accordance with article 12 of the Dutch Advertising Code. This made the Committee address this earlier by drawing attention to this article and explicitly insisting on compliance herewith in its general recommendation of October 1974. Although the Committee has noticed increasing compliance with this article, advertisements in which the words “guarantee” or “guaranteed” are not or not sufficiently substantiated are still repeatedly submitted to the Committee.
In this context, it has become clear to the Committee that the meaning of the words: “scope, purport, conditions and significance of the guarantee” is not always fully understood. For this reason, the Committee thinks it is necessary to bring this matter to the attention of advertisers, advertising agencies and the media again.
The Committee will focus on the main issue, which is the existing legal obligation of the supplier to provide a reliable product, and that the word “guarantee” may not be used to reduce legal obligations or pretend that compliance with these legal obligations is an additional service.
The Committee stipulates the following with respect to the explanation of and compliance with article 12 of Dutch Advertising Code:
- it is misleading to refer to a guarantee when primarily referring to a scheme intended to restrict the obligation of a producer or supplier to warrant the reliability of its products or its services;
- likewise, the word ‘guarantee’ or ‘guaranteed’ may not be used in advertisements if it only intends to emphasize an essential quality of a product or service that is supposed to be an implicit quality of this product or service. Therefore, the producer or supplier does not hereby undertake an obligation in addition to those obligations it already has pursuant to the law, i.e. the obligation to provide sound, practicable goods or services;
- if advertisements refer to a ‘guarantee’ without any further explanation, this should mean that the buyer has the right to a full guarantee with unrestricted cover for all parts and features of the product; any limitation in respect of the scope and significance of the guarantee shall therefore be explicitly mentioned;\
- the scope of the guarantee applies to the parts or features of the product or service covered by the guarantee;
- the purport and scope of the guarantee shall mean how and the extent to which defects are remedied and damage repaired, respectively;
- the terms and conditions of the guarantee shall always be stated. (March 1976)
g. Use of the term ‘recommended price’
The Advertising Code Committee took cognizance of the fact that the concept ‘recommended price’ is increasingly being used in advertisements, where the statement is made that the advertiser in question is offering the product at a certain percentage below the ‘recommended price’. Quite often though, it appears that no recommended price is set by the producer of the product in question.
In light of the fact that the average consumer will understand the ‘recommended price’ as being the price set by the producer or importer of the product and recommended to retailers, it is misleading to use the term ‘recommended price’ if it does not apply to the price set by the producer, but instead the price set by, for example, the branch committee or by the advertiser itself.
The Committee therefore recommends that advertisements used or placed in the future only use the term ‘recommended price’ if an official list of prices recommended by the producer of the advertised product exists and if the consumer is granted inspection of these lists, on request. (March, 1976)
h. Advertising for branches
The Advertising Code Committee recommends that companies and organizations that make use of several outlets for offering their products or services, take such measures that in the event advertisements are placed which refer to all outlets, the products or services in question are made fully available or deliverable at all these outlets, subject to specific and cited exceptions.
The Advertising Code Committee regularly receives complaints concerning advertisements by companies making use of several outlets for their products or services where the offer in question appears not to be or not to be fully available at one or more of the outlets. In some cases, this may be a matter of poor organization, but it may also be caused by inadequately trained and accountable personnel at the location.
Although the Committee is usually prepared to accept that these advertisements were placed in good faith and understands the problems connected with setting up several outlets, the Committee believes that it should point out that the public can usually only check the content of an advertisement in one of the outlet points visited and naturally does not have to take into account any organizational aspects.
The Committee also deems it a matter of impermissible negligence, or to be misleading or another infringement of the code if the commendation of products or services in advertisements in one or more outlets of an organization does not or does not fully comply with the conditions or only complies under different conditions.
Furthermore, the Committee holds the view that organizational problems or other aspects of alleged force majeure may not be invoked if these advertisements did not expressly exclude these outlets in the offer or the supply, as the case may be.
i. Pictures of the product offered
The Advertising Code Committee recommends that if a product offered in an advertisement is accompanied by a picture (which intends to illustrate the product in question), the picture should give an exact reproduction of the product as advertised in words (designation or description).
It has become clear to the Committee that advertisements frequently contain pictures of products that do not or do not fully match the characteristics of the products in question. The Committee deems this conduct impermissible.
Invoking the non-availability of the appropriate picture, a misunderstanding or a failure of the advertising agency called in or the publisher is deemed unacceptable by the Committee.
j. Accommodation agencies
The Advertising Code Committee recommends that persons or organizations, acting professionally as an intermediary in the conclusion of housing tenancy agreements, mention their name and – if this is not yet part of the name – mention the words: “accommodation agency”, “housing agency” or “rental housing agency” in their advertisements.
The Advertising Code Committee regularly receives complaints about the fact that advertisements – whether or not described in detail – give the impression that a private person is offering or requesting accommodation when in fact it is an accommodation agency, offering or requesting living space for third parties. According to the Advertising Code Committee, such advertisements are contrary to the provisions of article 7 of the Dutch Advertising Code.
k. Personnel advertisements (withdrawn)
l. Children’s fireworks
Several advertisements in which fireworks, e.g. sparklers and snaps, are referred to as “Children’s fireworks” or “Children’s packages” have been submitted to the Advertising Code Committee. In these advertisements these types of fireworks are described as “harmless”, “safe for small children”, “definitely harmless” or “may be held by small children”. However, it has become clear to the Advertising Code Committee, that many accidents happen while setting off these ‘children’s fireworks’ and that the use of the word ‘children’s’ and/or the statement that the fireworks may be safely lit by children, is the main reason why they are not handled with proper care.
The Committee therefore recommends that advertisers, including persons who provide texts advertising fireworks to advertisers, omit any indication or suggestion of safety or harmlessness and the Committee also asks them to consider making explicit mention in the recommendation or on the packaging material of this apparently safe firework, that special care is required when setting off the fireworks. Some advertisements use the wording ‘approved fireworks’. However, any suggestion regarding such approval shall be omitted if an independent body has not inspected these fireworks.