Actor Anoop Menon has landed in a legal soup as a consumer court has held him liable for making false claims endorsing a hair cream without ascertaining its effectiveness.
The District Consumer Redressal Forum, Thrissur, ordered the manufacturers of Dhathri Hair Cream and its brand ambassador Anoop Menon, who endorsed the product in an advertisement to pay compensation of Rs. 10,000 each to Thrissur native Francis Vadakkan, who had filed a case against the actor and the company in 2012.
In his complaint filed against Dhathri, Francis claimed that he had bought the cream for the first time in January 2012 after seeing an advertisement in which Anoop promised that the use of the product for six weeks will assure lush hair growth. Although Francis used the cream religiously and had even bought and used a second pack, there was no improvement. Ridiculed by his family and friends for purchasing the product, he decided to approach the Consumer Forum for Rs 5 lakh compensation alleging emotional distress and humiliation.
The Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission cited that in the newspaper advertisement from January 2012 which featured Anoop, the actor made false promises of guaranteed hair growth. Although the actor claimed that the print advertisement was published without his approval, the commission observed that the actor could not prove this argument. Anoop in his deposition before the forum said that he thought the product was meant for hair care and not hair growth. He also admitted that he had not tried the product and uses the oil his mother prepares for him.
“I took part in the ad about hair protection, not hair growth. I don’t know about the advertisement. It is their story. But as part of the advertisement, a video shoot had been done,” actor Anoop Menon said, according to the commission.
The Court also observed that while the brochure that comes along with the product offers the ‘promise’ of hair growth, the clause that each user would have a different experience was printed in such a way that it is not even visible when looked at with a magnifying glass. The Commission also asked the medical store proprietor, from where Francis had bought the hair cream, to pay Rs 3000 as compensation to the complainant for covering legal fees.
In a similar case, in 2016, K Chaathu, a sculptor, had filed a case against Indulekha soap, which claimed to turn people fair. Actor Mammootty was the brand ambassador of the product then. As the company decided not to fight the case, Chaathu received a compensation of Rs 30,000 from the company.
Brand endorsements are a part of the life of celebrities. Featuring in advertisements fetches them not just money, but fame as well. And as celebrities are often viewed as not just role models but are responsible for setting certain aspirations for the common man, advertisers and manufacturers have for long been collaborating with tinsel town folks to spin narratives of demand. However, the Consumer Protection Bill 2019, which replaces the 1986 version, states that in addition to the manufacturers and service providers, celebrity endorsers are liable for punishment in the cases of false and misleading advertising. And while Francis’ complaint was filed when the Consumer Protection Act had no express provision for fixing liability on celebrity endorsers, that did not deter the court from finding Anoop, it's brand ambassador, liable.