China introduces tough new advertising laws on medical treatment

Organizations targeting the Chinese market for medical treatment need to understand the new advertising and online laws, including the severe repercussions if these new laws are violated.

The Advertising Law of the People’s Republic of China Law was revised and came into force in September 2015. The aim is to regulate advertising and clarify rules on advertising activities. The new law has 75 sections; double that of the old law.

The law now has specific rules regarding advertisements for treatment methods and medical devices.

It clarifies the definition of false advertising to include advertisements that deceive or mislead consumers, as well as advertisements that contain false or misleading information.

The law sets out general principles for advertisements transmitted electronically and via the Internet. It is illegal to send unsolicited advertisements either electronically or to a private address). Pop-up advertisements must be closed with one. Perhaps more importantly, it puts the burden on Internet service providers to stop illegal advertisements via their platforms.

Radio stations, TV stations, newspapers, periodical and audio-visual publishing entities, and internet information service providers must not carry disguised advertisements for medical treatment by information on health or health maintenance

The role of the regulator, the Administration for Industry and Commerce (AIC), has been expanded so that the public can report problem advertising.

The law on false advertising has been tightened and tougher penalties include revocation of business licenses and advertising registration certifications.

Tough new rules apply to advertising endorsements by organisations or individuals that give an endorsement or testimonial for a product or service in an advertisement. Advertisement endorsers cannot endorse or give testimonials for products they have not used or for services they have never received. Use of advertisement endorsers to make endorsements or testimonials in advertisements for medical treatment or medical devices is forbidden by the new law.

Any Chinese medical clinic or hospital, whose false advertisement is considered to be a severe legal violation, could even have its practicing license taken away.

The laws apply to any advert seen in China and targeting the Chinese market, not just adverts from within China.

The rules on the use of the Internet and Internet advertising are different in China to anywhere else in the world, as there is government control.

For advertisers it means that much greater care should be exercised when advertising or doing business in China.

Before advertising online or offline to the Chinese market, any business should check the legality with a lawyer that understands the Chinese market and is aware of all the latest rules.