Consumer police sting satellite ads [Bangkok Post, Thailand]
(Bangkok Post (Thailand) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Oct. 07--Police are cracking down on satellite TV advertisements promoting fake medicines and cosmetic products.
The number of such ads is booming, because the punishments for airing them are so lax, officers say.
Police said the crackdown is necessary in light of the absence of proper legal controls on the satellite TV business.
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) is still in the process of drafting regulations to control the satellite TV business.
Many advertisements on satellite TV lure people into buying expensive but fake products, which in many cases can be harmful for their health.
"Mostly, these advertisements are exaggerated," said Pol Col Lamphan Phanthanaprathet, chief of the Consumer Protection Police Division's 4th region.
Among examples of these illegal products are "super drugs" which the sellers claim can cure severe diseases, make people look younger, keep their body fit and improve their sexual prowess.
Some victims realised the folly at the cost of their health after being exposed to certain hazardous substances mixed in the drugs, Pol Col Lamphan said.
To combat unethical business operators, Pol Col Lamphan said he and Prasert Pattanadee, deputy chief of the Consumer Protection Police Division, had set up a centre to monitor advertisements on satellite TV channels.
Television screens were bought to their office and police were ordered to take turn monitoring advertisements and record commercials on satellite TV.
From Oct 1 last year to Sept 30 this year, the team found 339 commercials selling fake medicines and cosmetics. Most of them violated the 1979 Food Act, the 1967 Drug Act, the 1992 Cosmetics Act and the 2008 Medical Instrument Act, Pol Col Lamphan said.
Drug producers are required to obtain licences from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for both drug manufacturing and advertising.
However, these wrongdoers had bypassed the two legal requirements, Pol Col Lamphan said. The sellers also avoided the strict monitoring of ads on free TV by turning to satellite broadcasts.
To deal with these illegal businesses, the team will first record suspicious ads. Police agents will then lure them into selling the products, which will be later sent to the FDA and Department of Medical Sciences for inspection.
The test results and details of the channels on which the products are advertised will be used as evidence to prosecute the wrongdoers, he said.
Pol Col Lamphan said he also wants to take legal action against the owners of satellite TV stations. However, this cannot be done until the NBTC completely regulates the satellite TV business.
He also said the existing punishments for violators are too light.
Under the 1967 Drug Act, a person who sells drugs without permission or exaggerates the products' qualities will be fined 5,000 baht or jailed for three months.
For those who sell products without the FDA's permission, the punishment will be a fine of up to 30,000 baht or a jail term of up to three years, according to the 1979 Food Act.
In many cases, the court will hand down suspended jail terms, so drug sellers will take the risk in returning to their business because of the leniency frequently extended to them by the court, Pol Col Lamphan said.
The FDA and the Office of the Consumer Protection Board have proposed amending the laws to up the punishments.
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