The Turkish Ministry of Commerce has published the latest amendments to the Advertising Regulations

On February 1, 2022, the Turkish Ministry of Commerce published important amendments to Regulation No. 20435 on Commercial Advertising and Unfair Commercial Practices (“Advertising Regulations”). The purpose of the Advertising Regulations is to determine the rules and principles applicable to persons engaged in commercial advertising activities and to protect consumers against unfair commercial practices in Turkey. The Regulations Amending the Commercial Advertising and Unfair Commercial Practices Regulations (“Amending Regulation”) includes comprehensive changes to advertising activities, including online consumer reviews and complaints, patient statements, consumer shopping behavior data, discount sales and biocidal products. The amending regulations will enter into force on March 1, 2022.

What changes did the amending regulation introduce?

  • Article 5/1(ğ) of the Advertising Regulation abolishes the ban on advertisements containing statements and images of patients before and after treatment.
  • A new sub-article 10 has been added to article 13 stating: “The price offered by analyzing consumers’ shopping behavior and their other personal data is considered a personalized price. In the event that such a price is offered to the consumer, the information on this subject, the current selling price determined by the seller or supplier, and the personalized price must appear in the same place in the advertisement.
  • The amendment to section 14/1 requires advertisements containing any written, audible or visual expression indicating a discount for a good or service to include the “pre-discount price”. Previously, it was only mandatory to indicate the start and end dates of discounted sales, as well as any limitations on the amount of discounted goods or services offered.
  • Prior to the amendment, Article 14/3 required that the latest price of goods or services should be taken as the basis for calculating a discount rate and amount. Following the modification, the lowest price applied in the 30 days preceding the discount date will be taken as the basis for determining the sale price before discount. However, it should be emphasized that this does not apply to perishable goods such as fruit and vegetables. . Their latest price is always taken as the basis for determining the discount rate and amount. Please note that the burden of proof regarding these requirements rests with the advertiser.
  • In accordance with paragraph 4 added to Article 25, in advertisements where a good or service is offered for sale with a linked loan, advertisers are required to indicate (i) the due date of the loan, (ii) the interest rate, (iii) the monthly and annual value as a percentage of its total cost to the consumer, and (iv) its terms of repayment.
  • Following the amendment to Article 26, “biocidal products” have been included among products, such as medical products, cosmetics, alcoholic beverages and tobacco products, which must comply with their own special legislation as well as the advertising regulations.

New provisions on comparative rankings, consumer reviews and complaints

In addition to the changes mentioned above, the amending regulation introduces three new provisions, namely Article 28/A on comparative rankings, Article 28/B on consumer reviews and Article 28/C on consumer complaints. These new provisions introduced by the amending regulation are very important as the law clearly addresses user comments and complaints on e-commerce websites within the scope of commercial advertising activities and regulates these areas. Given the power that user feedback has on online sales, it’s fair to say that these actions should have been taken much sooner.

  1. Rankings based on comparison

Article 28/A regulates ranking criteria based on comparisons between goods and services sold online in terms of price, quality and other similar aspects. Therefore, when such a ranking is offered, it is necessary to specify the criteria according to which the ranking was created either directly on the relevant page or via a contextual link that directs consumers to more detailed information. Article 28/A also provides that ranking results displayed on the basis of advertising, sponsorship or any other similar agreement must include a sign indicating “advertising”.

  1. Consumer reviews

Article 28/B introduces important provisions regarding user reviews of goods or services purchased online. First of all, the amending regulation limits the right to comment on products and services only to people who have purchased the product or service concerned. People who have not purchased a product or service on the internet are no longer authorized to comment on them. Secondly, it is necessary to inform consumers of the principles of posting reviews, either directly on the relevant web page where the reviews are posted, or via a contextual link that directs consumers to a more detailed information page.

One of the most significant changes made to consumer reviews by the amending regulations is that it is now mandatory for sellers to publish consumer reviews for at least one year, whether positive or negative. Additionally, any consumer whose review is deemed inappropriate for publication should be notified of the issue immediately. In the event that consumer harm related to online reviews of a good or service is remedied by the seller, this information must also be published under the respective negative review. The amending regulation also prohibits the publication of consumer reviews containing health claims contrary to its specific legislation.

Last but not least, the amending regulations address the issue of fake reviews, which is a very common problem these days. Some e-commerce businesses have been known to choose to post fake reviews to attract more customers and increase their sales figures. The Amending Regulation also explicitly prohibits entering into such agreements or purchasing such services.

  1. Consumer Complaints

In accordance with Article 28/C of the amending Regulation, complaint platforms that publish consumer complaints must comply with the rules specified in both Article 28/B and Article 28/C. In this context, sellers who have received complaints must have a period of at least 72 hours to exercise their right of declaration or reply before publication of the complaint. Complaints that do not appear to reflect the truth are also prohibited from posting on the platform. Article 28/C further obliges these complaint platforms to provide the seller with an effective means of communication, who can exercise the right to make a statement regarding the complaint, regardless of his affiliation.

Preparation of guidelines

In accordance with the amending regulations, the Advertising Commission will prepare the guidelines to protect consumers against commercial advertising and unfair commercial practices and these guidelines will be published on the official website of the Ministry of Commerce. Additionally, the Articles of the Guidelines will be implemented with the Advertising Regulations upon publication.

Conclusion

The amending regulation introduces many important updates to the existing provisions on commercial advertising and unfair commercial practices. Faced with the unstoppable growth of the e-commerce industry, lawmakers have introduced several important obligations for e-commerce sellers, requiring them to draw attention to customer reviews and complaints. Therefore, relevant persons or companies, such as e-commerce companies, sellers, Internet service providers and complaint platforms, are strongly advised to prepare the necessary infrastructure in order to fully comply with the obligations described in advertising regulations.

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