HONG KONG: A new law in China aimed at tackling problems surrounding faulty products extends legal liability beyond the manufacturer to include those people involved in the creation of misleading advertisements. 

Huang Jianhua, a government official at the State Administration of Industry and Commerce told China National Radio: "The owners of the products or service providers, advertising agencies, designers, production teams, factories, sales companies and various media that host the misleading ads will all share responsibility.”

The new provisions will also make celebrities who endorse products or services liable, as Shi Hong, a representative in the legislature made clear when speaking to Beijing Youth Daily. He said that "customers could demand indemnity from the product provider or the celebrity who endorses the product or service”.

"It depends on the customers themselves,” he added. "They can also sue both parties.”

The South China Morning Post noted that many celebrities had promoted products in China they had not tried themselves and could not vouch for. It cited the example of actress Carina Lau Kar-ling who endorsed a luxury Japanese skincare brand that was subsequently found to contain several harmful substances, including chromium and neodymium. But, said the paper, she did not apologise for the endorsement and "simply walked away”.

Other celebrities caught in the promotion of such products have included actors Jackie Chan and Tang Guogiang and comedian Guo Degang.

Lawyers welcomed the new law albeit with some reservations. Celebrities should obviously act responsibly said one, adding "but I think the law needs to clarify under what circumstances a celebrity should take responsibility: for example, what if he or she was tricked by the manufacturer?”

A further aspect of the revised law is that consumers can claim greater compensation, up to three times the original product price in damages.

Data sourced from South China Morning Post; additional content by Warc staff