The sanctions that the Advertisement Board has traditionally applied are the levying of administrative fines, correction decisions and precautionary or temporary suspension decisions against advertisements which violate the legal rules for advertisements broadcasted in any media including those found on the internet. In addition to these, the Advertisement Board has now been authorized to block access to online broadcasts or contents which are found to violate advertising rules through amendments introduced to Consumer Protection Law in April 2022. If the violating content cannot be blocked due to technical reasons or the violation cannot be remedied by blocking access to the relevant content, the Advertisement Board is also authorized to block access to the entire website on which the content is hosted.
The Advertisement Board strictly scrutinizes online advertisements and exercises this power when applicable. For instance, in December 2022 the Board examined advertisements published on the social media account of a company promoting legal services offered by the company and directing consumers to the company’s website and issued a cease order regarding the advertisements while also blocking access to the entire website.
Another amendment introduced to the Consumer Protection Law concerns the monetary sanctions the Advertisement Board can impose for advertisements broadcasted through satellite radio and TV channels.
Until recently, the Consumer Protection Law in relation to the administrative fine to be imposed against violating advertisements has regulated the fines for advertisements broadcast through national and regional television/radio channels but not/as well as the internet, text messages, and other media like outdoor advertising. The advertisements broadcast through satellite radio and TV channels were not explicitly regulated. However, given the increase in the number of satellite television broadcasts in recent years, the lack of any explicit regulation of these has led to confusion around whether the penalty regime for internet media or national and regional radio/TV broadcasts was the correct one to apply. Amendments have been brought establishing that the administrative fines applicable to regional radio channels should be applied to satellite radio broadcasts, and that the same applied to advertisements on the internet should be used for advertisements on satellite TV broadcasts.
The Advertisement Board’s powers to deal with the advertisement of counterfeit goods have also been expanded. In this respect, the Board had previously evaluated that counterfeit products that were sold and advertised as genuine products on various websites and social media accounts is misleading and against the principle requiring that claims included in advertisements must be accurate and provable and has imposed administrative fines against these types of advertisements.
The Board followed this approach in 2022 as well. In its decision rendered in September 2022, it dealt with a case of footwear products of highly reputed and well-known brands offered for sale on a company’s websites that were advertised and promoted as genuine products on these websites. However, the products delivered to the consumers upon order were of low-quality material, appearance, and features, and thus the delivered products were found to be counterfeit products. Accordingly, the Advertisement Board evaluated that the claims regarding the authenticity of the products in these advertisements available on the specified websites did not reflect the truth and exploited consumers’ lack of information and in response issued a cease order and administrative monetary fine.
The Board rendered a similar decision in November 2022 which found it misleading and contradictory to principles of fair competition that the company in question created the false impression that it was associated with a well-known electronics company by using the trade name, logo, and visuals of that company although the company had no kind of contractual relationship with the well-known electronics company such as a distributorship, authorized service relationship, or dealership agreement. The Board issued cease order with respect to the advertisements.
It is important that the Advertisement Board carries out administrative surveillance of the advertising of counterfeit products and implements administrative sanctions against perpetrators. This approach refers to effective and many-pronged supervision which affirms that trademark right holders can resort to administrative remedies in addition to judicial remedies for trademark infringement.