Study finds toxins in toothpastes
A recent study by Toxics Link, an environmental NGO, found triclosan, an endocrine disrupting chemical, in 72.8 per cent of samples of two items of everyday use it tested in Delhi to determine the levels of the antifungal-antibacterial agent present in them. Triclosan can lead to liver problems, depression and cancer, and is being phased out in several countries.
As part of the study, 11 samples each of toothpaste and soap were randomly collected from different markets in Delhi and sent to the Shriram Institute for Industrial Research. The analysis found one soap sample and four toothpaste samples containing the chemical beyond the permissible limit of 3,000 ppm prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards.
The study said that all personal care products seemed to contain from 0.1 per cent to 0.3 per cent of triclosan. Disturbingly, most of this got washed down the drain and ended up in the environment chain. The chemical is found in high concentrations in treated sewage sludge as well, which gets used in agriculture as a fertiliser, in turn affecting plants and wildlife.
Misleading ads: Celebrities and companies are equally responsible
Celebrities endorsing consumer goods and services may face the risk of being jailed in case of false or misleading claims if the new consumer protection law is cleared in the present shape. The fresh draft of the Consumer Protection Bill prepared by the legislative department of the law ministry makes no distinction between manufactures or service providers and celebrities when it comes to punishment for misleading advertisements.
“Whoever makes an endorsement which is false or misleading and prejudicial to the interest of any consumer shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years and with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees; and for the second and subsequent offences, be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years and fine which may extend to fifty lakh rupees,” reads the official amendment to the Bill initially introduced in the Lok Sabha on 10 August 2015.
The government has introduced the provision taking into account a parliamentary committee report which, among other recommendations, had suggested fixing of liability on brand endorsers or celebrities. Interestingly, the same punishment is provided for any manufacturer or service provider “who causes a false or misleading advertisement to be made, which is prejudicial to the interest of any consumer.”
While it may already be too harsh to provide for jail term for celebrities who endorse products or services for fixed monetary considerations rather than profiteering, the drafting seems to have made the provision harsher than one may think. It leaves no option to punish a celebrity only with fine or with imprisonment. Instead of providing for imprisonment ‘and’ fine, the drafters would have provided for imprisonment ‘and/or’ fine if the intention was to confer discretion on point of sentence. Generally a penal law provides for imprisonment or fine or both as punishment.
The amendments to the Consumer Protection Bill, 2015 – which will now be presented as Consumer Protection Bill, 2016 – have made a series of changes to provide for fixing responsibility on celebrities who could be used by manufacturers and service providers for making money by cheating consumers.
Endorsement under Section 17B means “any message, verbal statement, demonstration” or depiction of the name, signature, likeness or other identifying personal characteristics of an individual or the name or seal of an organization “which make the consumer to believe that it reflects the opinion, findings or experience of the person making such endorsement.”
While recommending fixing of responsibility, the Parliamentary panel had noted: “The consumers tend to believe such advertisements promoted by eminent personalities or celebrities blindly. However, when the unfair trade practices are exposed, the celebrities are quick to disassociate themselves with the products/companies they were hitherto representing.”