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Beauty ads attracted highest number of complaints in 2013

Advertisements on beauty products and services attracted the highest number of complaints last year, the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore revealed on Monday.

SINGAPORE: Advertisements on beauty products and services attracted the highest number of complaints last year, continuing a three-year trend, the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (Asas) revealed on Monday.

Bust enhancement, slimming and hair loss are issues that feature prominently on advertisements in the media.

Many are also misleading or exaggerated.

Dr Tan Sze Wee, Asas’ chairman, said: "There is a lot of expectation when you promote such products. We just want to make sure that at the end of the day, if it's something that is effective and truthful, they present it in a very transparent and ethical manner as well."

Ads on beauty products and services ranked top in the number of complaints received by Asas.

The 78 complaints are nearly double that of 2012. They also accounted for about a quarter of all complaints received by the Authority this year.

Asas receives one case of feedback every day regarding ads from the beauty industry. Out of those that are legitimate complaints, up to 70 per cent of them involve ads placed in both the English and Chinese print media.

There is also an emerging trend involving ads on financial services and investment seminars. The concern is that these ads make claims promising high returns without clear accountability.

Moving forward, Asas will engage industries and companies so they know the impact of negative feedback, especially when it gets online.

Dr Tan said: "They sometimes do not even pay attention to what happens on social media, how people blog about it. When they start to realise that, they realise that that's something they don't know. And we try to tell them, 'Look, the consumer today is very educated. And if there is something that doesn't smell right, you can't hide it for long’."

The goal is for each industry to be self-regulated, as there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

For those who continue to flout the rules, Singapore's consumer rights watchdog can force them to take the ads down.

Seah Seng Choon, CASE’s executive director, said: "If they put out an ad, and a lot of consumers are misled, and (the ad) attracts big numbers of complaints, we will certainly step in to invite them to sign the VCA (Voluntary Compliance Agreement).

“If they refuse, then of course we will publish it in the newspapers, and in addition to that, CASE can proceed with injunction procedures."

For a general guideline on what is and is not acceptable, there is the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice. This is updated as and when trends change.

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