Changes Made in Discount Sales Advertisements and Commercial Advertising Regulations
Important changes were made to the Regulation on Commercial Advertising and Unfair Commercial Practices (“Regulation”) in the Official Gazette dated 01.02.2022. These changes, carried out by the Ministry of Commerce, came into effect on 01.03.2022. In this study, we will explain how consumers and those engaged in commercial practices will be affected by the new regulations regarding discounted sales advertisements, evaluations related to products offered for sale on the internet, and the concept of personalized pricing.
Prohibition on Before-After Expressions or Images Removed
The provision in Article 5(g) of the Regulation, which pertains to commercial advertising and states that “Advertisements cannot contain expressions or images related to patients’ pre-treatment and post-treatment,” has been removed with the recent amendment.
Advertisements containing health claims will continue to be subject to certain specific limitations compared to other advertisements, in accordance with the Regulation on Health Claims for Products Offered for Sale with Health Claims and other relevant regulations. However, with this amendment, a commercial advertisement designed in compliance with these regulations can now include expressions or images related to patients’ pre-treatment and post-treatment. It is important, though, that the promotion remains accurate and honest.
The Concept of “Personalized Price”
The term “personalized price,” which was not previously included in the legislation, has been regulated for the first time with an additional paragraph to Article 13 of the Regulation. According to this addition, the “price offered by analyzing the consumer’s purchasing behavior and other personal data for a product or service” will be considered a personalized price.
Furthermore, an obligation has been imposed on sellers and providers in the subsequent part of the regulation; if a personalized price is offered to the consumer, the seller or provider must provide both the current price and the personalized price in the same area. Additionally, the information that the price offered to the consumer is a personalized price must also be provided in the same area. This way, consumers will be able to access accurate information about the current market price of the product or service they are interested in.
The Lowest Price Within the Last 30 Days Will Be the Basis for Discount Sale Advertisements
Due to fluctuations in exchange rates and high inflation over the past year, there have been constant price changes for goods and services. Therefore, to prevent deceptive practices such as showing the price before the discount as excessively high in advertisements indicating that a discount has been made on a product or service (discount sale advertisement), a new paragraph has been added to Article 14 of the Regulation.
According to the provision, in discount sale advertisements, when stating the price before the discount, the lowest price applied within the thirty days before the discount will be taken as the basis. In other words, the non-discounted sale price (the crossed-out price) will be the lowest price of that product in the previous month. Otherwise, administrative fines may be imposed depending on the medium in which the advertisement is published.
This provision will not apply to quickly perishable goods such as fruits and vegetables. In other words, for such products, the price before the discount from the previous period will be taken as the basis. This way, consumers will engage in honest purchasing relationships without being misled regarding the amount and percentage of the discount in discount sale advertisements. The burden of proving that the non-discounted sale price is the lowest price within the last 30 days will be on the advertiser.
Information to Be Included in Advertisement of Tied Credit Agreements
With the new regulation, advertisements indicating that a product or service is offered for sale with tied credit will be required to provide additional information to consumers. According to the provision added to Article 25, paragraph 4 of the Regulation, in such advertisements, information about the maturity of the credit, the interest rate, the monthly and annual percentage of the total cost to the consumer, and the repayment conditions must be included in the area where the advertisement is published or on a website or pop-up screen where consumers can be directed to for detailed information with a warning sign.
New Regulations Regarding Comparative Price Presentation
Article 28/A added to the Regulation is another of the regulations related to e-commerce. This amendment pertains to cases where comparisons are made regarding the price, quality, and similar aspects of goods or services offered for sale in the online environment. What should be noted here is that it is the goods and services that are ranked by making comparisons, not randomly listed items, that fall within the scope of this regulation.
Platforms that list products and services based on comparisons, such as cimri.com for price comparisons and akakce.com, or epey.com for quality comparisons, can serve as examples. In such cases, there must be a link or warning sign in the area where the ranking is made, which directs consumers to obtain detailed information. Through this link, consumers can become informed about the criteria used for creating the ranking. This regulation imposes an obligation on sellers and providers to provide information about the ranking criteria to consumers.
New Regulations Regarding Consumer Reviews
Reviews or comments made by consumers about goods and services offered for sale in the online environment play a significant role in influencing other consumers interested in those goods and services. In response to the need to protect consumers in this regard, an amendment has been made to the Regulation. The newly added Article 28/B imposes certain obligations on sellers, providers, or intermediary service providers that allow consumers to make reviews and evaluations. Organizations that provide the opportunity for reviews and evaluations will only be able to offer this opportunity to those who have purchased the relevant product or service. In this way, consumers interested in the product or service will be protected from forming incorrect impressions about the product through reviews and evaluations that can be made before acquiring the product or service.
Only consumers who have purchased the relevant product or service will be allowed to provide reviews, and sellers, providers, and intermediary service providers that enable review opportunities are also obliged to provide information about the criteria used for publishing reviews through a link or notice in the area where they provide this opportunity.
With this new regulation, consumer reviews must be published objectively, regardless of whether they are positive or negative, for a minimum period of one year. If there are consumer reviews that are not allowed to be published by sellers, providers, or intermediary service providers, this situation must be immediately communicated to the consumer who provided the review, after the necessary verification. Additionally, these entities are obligated not to publish consumer reviews that contain health claims that violate relevant regulations.
In cases where consumer reviews have been made due to grievances, once the grievance is resolved, the review must be published promptly in the same location after necessary verification.
The last paragraph of the relevant article prohibits the making of agreements for the purpose of creating untrue consumer reviews to boost the sales of a product or service.
New Regulations Regarding Complaint Platforms
Article 28/C, which was added to the Regulation, concerns platforms that allow the publication of consumer complaints. This article stipulates that these platforms will also be subject to the obligations outlined in Article 28/B of the Regulation, as explained above. Furthermore, these platforms are obligated to provide at least a 72-hour period for sellers and providers subject to reviews to exercise their right to make explanations or respond before publishing complaints. Additionally, it is specified that these platforms should not impose conditions such as membership or fees for sellers and providers to make explanations. Moreover, in cases where the reviews do not reflect the truth, the complaint should not be published.
Changes Made to Examples Listed in Deceptive Commercial Practices
The Regulation provides a list of examples of deceptive commercial practices that are prohibited in its annex. With the new regulation, one of the examples of the act of unjustifiably increasing prices, even though it is not affected by the exchange rate, has been removed from the list. We believe that this interesting change may be due to the continuous fluctuations in exchange rates. This is because the high inflation caused by the significant increase in exchange rates does not allow for a situation where any product or service is not affected by the exchange rate.
With the new regulation, two more examples have been added to the content of the article. One of these examples pertains to the fraudulent commercial practices involving the sale of tickets for the Arctic Monkeys music group’s concert scheduled to be held in Turkey in 2022. This practice involves the use of automated software, known as bots, to purchase a large number of tickets and then resell them to consumers at higher prices. Such practices, which negatively impact consumers, have been classified as examples of deceptive commercial practices and are prohibited by this regulation. These are commonly known as “black market” sales.
Another example added to the regulation pertains to the sale of goods and services in the online environment. In these sales, using user interfaces, options, or expressions that will negatively influence consumers’ decision-making or lead to changes in favor of the seller in their decision-making process is prohibited.
With the new changes, just as it is the case for products such as medicines, medical devices, and tobacco products, biocidal products will also be required to have advertisements that comply with the relevant regulations and other provisions regarding advertising and promotion.
Another new regulation introduced with the amendment to the Regulation is that the Advertising Board will prepare guidelines aimed at protecting consumers. As a result of this regulation, we believe that the guidelines published by the Advertising Board will serve as a guiding force in ensuring that the content published in the rapidly changing and evolving advertising industry complies with the law.