Advertisement Board’s Expanded Power: Blocking Access
The traditional sanctions that the Advertisement Board used to apply were ordering administrative fine, correction decision and precautionary or temporary suspension decisions against advertisements which violate the legal rules for advertisements broadcasted in any media including internet. In addition to these, the Advertisement Board has been authorized to block access to online broadcasts or contents which are found to violate the advertising rules through amendments introduced to Consumer Protection Law in April 2022. In case the violating content may not be blocked due to technical reasons or the violation may not be remedied by blocking access to the relevant content, the Advertisement Board is also authorized to block access to the entire website.
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 the company promoting legal services offered by the company and directing consumers to the company’s website and issued cease order regarding the advertisements and blocked access to the entire website.
Another amendment introduced by the amending law is in terms of the monetary sanctions to be imposed by the Advertisement Board against 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 broadcasted through national and regional television/radio channels besides the internet, text messages, and other media like outdoor advertising. The advertisements broadcasted through satellite radio and TV channels were not explicitly regulated. However, given the increased number of television broadcasts over satellite in recent years, the lack of an explicit rule in the Consumer Protection Law regarding advertisements broadcasted through satellite television and radio, caused hesitation about whether internet penalties or penalties applied to violations made through national and regional radio / TV broadcasts should be applied. In this direction, the amendments ruled that the administrative fine applied against advertisements broadcasted through regional radio channels can be applied to advertisements broadcasted through satellite radio broadcasts and that the administrative fine applied against advertisements broadcasted through the internet can be applied to advertisements broadcasted through satellite TV broadcasts.
The Advertisement Board expanded its powers with respect to advertisement of counterfeit goods as well. In this respect, the Board had previously evaluated that advertising of 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 imposed administrative fine against these advertisements.
The Board followed this approach in 2022 as well. In its decision rendered in September 2022, it determined that footwear products of well-known brands which have high reputation before the consumers were offered for sale on the websites of the company subject to surveillance, and those products were advertised and promoted as genuine products on these websites. However, the products delivered to the consumers upon order were low-quality products in terms of the material used, their appearance and features, whereby the delivered products were found to be counterfeit products. Therefore, the Advertisement Board has evaluated that the claims regarding the authenticity of the products in these advertisements available on the specified websites do not reflect the truth and exploit the lack of information of the consumers and issued cease order and administrative monetary fine.
The Board rendered a similar decision in November 2022 where the Board found it misleading and contradictory to the fair competition principles that the company subject to surveillance created a false impression as if it were 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 electronics company such as distributorship, authorized service relationship or a dealership agreement. The Board issued cease order with respect to the advertisements.
It is important that the Advertisement Board carries out administrative surveillance on the advertising of counterfeit products and implements administrative sanctions against them. This approach refers to effective, multi-legged supervision which affirms that the trademark right holders can alternatively resort to administrative remedies, in addition to judicial remedies against trademark infringement.