False press releases of banks or lotteries, and even misleading ads abound on social networks. How do you separate truth from falsehood? How do we fight this phenomenon? Interpretations I am a Peruvian princess.
What does the law say?
The purpose of misleading advertising is to influence an individual to obtain products or services by transmitting false or inaccurate information with the intent to deceive or mislead him/her, Amira Peeroo promptly explained to me.
False advertising is governed by various “laws of parliament,” as the lawyer specifies. “These do not address misleading advertising directly and specifically. But we can still find general prohibitions against misleading advertising.”
Me Amira Peeroo cites the Fair Trade Act of 1979 which states that a person conducting a business has no right to publish information that could be “misleading or confusing.” On the other hand, Section 61 of the Banks Act 2004 states that no bank may declare a cash deposit without first delivering a copy of it to the Bank of Mauritius (BoM) for verification. The Central Bank has the power to order its amendment or rejection.
In addition, Me Amira Peeroo, a person who spreads false, misleading or fabricated information using a computer or communications tool, is remembered committing an offense under the Information and Communications Technology Act 2001.
How do you protect yourself?
First of all, Princess Peeroo advises me, that the user should identify and analyze the service offered to him. Make sure it is on the correct website and official service provider page. The user must also ask himself whether the service requires the personal data requested from him.
If a person is using their bank’s official mobile application, a request for this information is acceptable. On the other hand, if a dating site requires a user to provide their bank account number when they are just creating a profile, they will have to be on guard, the lawyer warns. “Even the smartest people can be deceived.”
On the other hand, the user should check if a particular offer is real and make sure that he is dealing with a reliable source. If you are in doubt about the different types of ‘service providers’, they should check who exactly they are and whether they have displayed a Business Registration Number (BRN) on their website.
If it is a company, the user should browse the Corporate and Business Registration Department website to determine if the company is reliable, the attorney highlights.
Is it permissible to ban a misleading ad writer?
“It will depend on the sector of activity,” replied the Princess of Peru. Both the BoM and the FSC oversee the banking and financial services sector, and will therefore be able to prevent the possibility of misleading advertising. Those who do not have a license in this sector are not entitled to make such advertisements.
In somewhat liberalized sectors with fewer restrictions, it is not necessary to banish the misleading copywriter. This is due to the lack of a regulator that monitors the actions of all parties involved.
“This is where we see the importance of having a regulator who has some form of stakeholder control,” Princess Peeroo argues with me.
“The role of the regulator will vary according to the sector of activity involved,” explains Anna Princess of Peru. Like the BoM in the case of commercial banks, the Financial Services Commission (FSC) also has a say in advertising for financial services. “In these sectors, you are less likely to find false advertisements because regulators are monitoring the grain.”
The difficulty lies in the less regulated areas where the advertising style remains somewhat liberal compared to financial and banking services, Me Amira Peeroo continues. For example, anyone selling electric mowers on social media can decide how and how intense to advertise as they see fit, since there are few limitations.
In this case, in the absence of a regulator dedicated to monitoring the commercial sector, the probability of encountering false advertising is much greater. The Consumer Affairs Unit can certainly challenge merchants who practice misleading advertisements. Except that most of the time, this unit only works after a complaint from the trapped consumer. So the damage has already been done.
What is the victim’s sanctuary?
In the event of fraud, Me Amira Peeroo assures, the victim can turn to the police. She will have to present herself with certain evidence: advertising described as misleading, defective product, inappropriate service … The police investigation will determine whether there is grounds for criminal prosecution.
Me Amira Peeroo informed that the victim can also file a complaint with the Mauritius Internet Crime Reporting System (MAUCORS), the platform dedicated to cybercrime. However, SEO does not have the power to guarantee that victims will get their money back.
As per the Fair Trade Act 1979, the offense of providing incorrect or false information is punishable by a fine not exceeding 200,000 rupees and imprisonment not exceeding two years. In the case of recidivism, the fine limit rises to 500,000 rupees and the maximum penalty is five years in prison.
Under the Financial Services Act 2008, anyone with a business license or not may be fined up to Rs 500,000 and imprisoned for no more than five years. A person who violates the Banking Act 2004 risks a fine not exceeding Rs 500,000 and imprisonment for up to two years.
Purchases on eBay
The situation becomes more complicated when shopping on platforms such as Ali Express or Ebay, among others. Jurisdiction comes into play: What laws does the merchant operate under? Then comes the question of who the original seller is.
According to the attorney, it can be difficult to obtain legal documents and other “notifications” used in the event of civil lawsuits against such platforms. Most of the time, scammers get away with it because they cannot be identified or located. So it will be very difficult for the victim to get his money back.
To get his money back, Me Amira Peeroo offers, the victim will have to file a civil case in a court of law. “The invalidity of the contract may be requested because the victim did not give his informed consent. Thus, the court can order the victim to recover his money.”
However, it makes the lawyer understand that “this solution can only be applied when the owner of the fraud can be identified.”