Advertisement Regulation in UAE

by Bojan Vuksanovic

Here are some comments on Advertisement Regulation in UAE. Though market is quite liberal it is important to know there is strong advertising regulation influenced mostly by cultural and trading inheritance. Some basic rules:

  • Advertisers must comply with the relevant advertising rules and regulations applicable to each Emirate within the UAE. Moral and cultural sensitivities must be considered.
  • False and misleading statements whether related to comparisons or not, are not permitted.
  • Some industries, such as the health sector, are required to comply with additional comparative advertising regulations.

Several differing pieces of legislation, such as the Commercial Transactions Law (1993) and the Consumer Protection Law (2006) are relevant as are the advertising rules and regulations which may apply in the relevant Emirate where the advertising is to occur.

Under the Commercial Transactions Law, there are provisions whereby a trader may not:

(a)     disclose matters that are inconsistent with the reality regarding the origin or description of his goods or any other matters pertaining to their nature of importance;

(b)     declare falsely that he holds a status or degree or award, or resort to any other misleading means with the intent to entice the customers of a competitor trader;

(c)     resort to fraud and cheating when marketing his goods, or spread or publish false particulars tending to prejudice to the interests of another competitor trader (here in default the trader is liable for damages).

The Consumer Protection Law also contains a number of protections for consumers relating to false and misleading statements which, depending on the nature of the advertisement, can be relevant.

All advertising in the UAE must also take into consideration the moral and cultural sensitivities of the UAE and therefore, for example, if the advertisement was to be displayed on a billboard in Dubai, the approval of the Dubai Municipality could be required and such approval would not be given if the Municipality considered that the advertisement was, for any reason, inappropriate (eg because use is made of the “comparative advertising” technique). If an advertisement is to be shown on TV, then the National Media Council or TECOM (a media-dedicated free zone in Dubai) may also prohibit an “inappropriate” advertisement from being broadcast.

As another example, the Ministry of Health, which has the power to grant advertising licenses for health products, has a specific rule that for comparative advertising any recommendations shall not ordinarily include comparisons with other medical products or related products. However, where the comparison can be substantiated scientifically this may be permitted.

Advertisers are careful not to make any potentially defamatory statements given that defamation is a criminal offense! in the UAE (under the provisions of the Penal Code) and is taken very seriously.

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