Taipei Health Bureau Imposes Heavy Fine on Illegal Advertisements

The Taipei Bureau of Health (“BOH”) announced on 22 February 2021 the results of its investigation of illegal advertisements for food, drugs, and cosmetics in 2020 ( “Results”).  There were 806 cases in which penalties were imposed and the total amount of fines was NT$ 64,805,000.  The top three companies receiving the heaviest fines (accumulative) are Spring-Oasis Co., Ltd. (NT$ 1,760,000), TMAXSTRATEGY & Marketing Inc. (NT$ 1,760,000), and Benefitall Co., Ltd. (NT$ 1,240,000).
According to the Results, those who placed illegal advertisements for drugs received the highest fine amounts, in a total of NT$ 24,200,000 in 77 cases, followed by fines imposed for illegal advertisements for foods at a total of NT$ 21,470,000 in 381 cases, followed up by fines imposed for illegal advertisements for cosmetics, at a total of NT$ 19,135,000 in 348 cases.
The foods advertisement for “Formosa Biomedical Probiotics Health and Wellness Project” placed by Spring-Oasis Co., Ltd., claimed that the probiotics have the effects of “lessening flatulence, forming a protective film within the intestines, inhibiting the growth of bad bacteria, accelerating detoxification, relieving constipation, and transforming the intestines to ‘easy-to-lose-weight’ intestines”.  Spring-Oasis Co., Ltd. was fined by the BOH for this advertisement as it contains exaggerated claims and is inconsistent with the pre-approved advertising content.
In addition, the medical device advertisement for “NORAY horn-shaped shawl” launched by TMAXSTRATEGY & Marketing Inc. claimed that the shawl has the effects of “keeping a smooth blood flow in the coronary arteries, helping blood to flow smoothly in the brain in order to improve long-term memory, and preventing excessive clots from causing heart attacks and strokes”.  TMAXSTRATEGY & Marketing Inc. was fined by the BOH as this advertisement contains exaggerated claims and is inconsistent with the pre-approved advertising content, as well.
Benefitall Co., Ltd. placed an advertisement for its cosmetic product, “Style Israel dead sea miracle soaps set”, in which it was claimed that the soap is a National Medical Bureau designated dermatology clinic prescription for medical and clinical use only, and that the product has the effects of improving seasonal allergies, psoriasis, and acne.  BOH fined Benefitall Co., Ltd. because this advertisement contains exaggerated claims.
The Food and Drug Administration of the BOH reminded the public that online shopping is risky.  In recent years, many one-page online shopping advertisements have been observed on Faceboook, Line, and major online platforms, and these advertisements often attract consumers with low price promotions and by emphasizing the convenience of payment upon delivery.  However, when consumers wish to return goods due to inconsistencies with the claims of the advertisements, or because the goods contain obvious defects, or are of inferior quality, consumers often find themselves blocked by the seller.
The BOH reminds the public that the following features in one-page online shopping advertisements should cuase consumers to exercise caution: no company name, no company address, no consumer hotline, prices obviously lower than the market practice, frequent ‘limited’ offers, no delivery fees, free-return within 7 days, unpack checking allowable, free return for any dissatisfaction, pay upon delivery only, Simplified Chinese characters used, and product description using terminology from China.  Consumers should be cautious when placing orders, and should not completely trust online advertisements, and should make purchases from legitimate and reputable online platforms in order to better protect their own safety and rights.
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