On 1 February 2022, the Turkish Ministry of Commerce published significant amendments to the Commercial Advertising and Unfair Commercial Practices Regulation No. 20435 (“Advertising Regulation”). The focus of the Advertising Regulation is to determine the rules and principles for those engaged in commercial advertising activities, and to protect consumers against unfair commercial practices in Turkey. The Regulation Amending the Commercial Advertising and Unfair Commercial Practices Regulation (“Amending Regulation”) includes comprehensive changes to advertising activities, including consumer reviews and complaints online, patients’ statements, consumers’ purchasing behavior data, discounted sales, and biocidal products. The Amending Regulation will be effective as of 1 March 2022.
What Changes Has the Amending Regulation Introduced?
- Article 5/1(ğ) of the Advertising Regulation abolishes the prohibition on advertisements containing statements and images of patients before and after treatment.
- A new Sub-Article 10 has been added to Article 13 stating: “The price offered by analyzing consumers’ purchasing behaviour and their other personal data are considered to be a personalized price. In the event that such a price is offered to the consumer, information regarding this matter, the current sales price determined by the seller or the supplier, and the personalized price shall be included in the same place in the advertisement.”
- The amendment made to Article 14/1, requires advertisements containing any written, audible, or visual expression showing a discount for a good or service to include the “price before discount”. Previously, it was only mandatory to indicate the start and end dates for discounted sales, and any limitations to the amount of discounted goods or services offered.
- Before the amendment, Article 14/3 prescribed that the latest price for goods or services should be taken as the basis for calculating a discount rate and amount. Following the amendment, the lowest price applied within 30 days prior to the discount date shall be taken as the basis in the determination of sales price before discount. However, it should be highlighted that this does not apply to perishable goods such as fruits and vegetables. Their latest price is still taken as the basis in the determination of the discount rate and amount. Please note that the burden of proof regarding these requirements is on the advertiser.
- Pursuant to Sub-Article 4 added to Article 25, in advertisements where a good or service is offered for sale with a tied loan, advertisers are obliged to indicate (i) the maturity date of the loan, (ii) the rate of interest, (iii) the monthly and annual percentage value of its total cost to the consumer, and (iv) its reimbursement terms.
- Following the amendment made to Article 26, “biocidal products” have been included among the products, such as medical, cosmetic, alcoholic beverages and tobacco products, which must comply with their own special legislation as well as the Advertising Regulation.
New Provisions on Comparison Rankings, Consumer Reviews and Complaints
In addition to the above changes, the Amending Regulation introduces three new provisions, namely Article 28/A on comparison rankings, Article 28/B on consumer reviews, and Article 28/C on consumer complaints. These new provisions introduced by the Amending Regulation are very important as the law clearly addresses the user comments and complaints on e-commerce websites within the scope of commercial advertising activities and regulates these areas. Considering the power that user comments have in regard to online sales, it is fair to say that these steps should have been taken much earlier.
Rankings Based on Comparison
Article 28/A regulates the criteria for rankings based on comparisons between goods and services sold online in terms of their price, quality, and other similar aspects. Accordingly, where such ranking is offered, it is necessary to specify the criteria by which the ranking was created either directly on the relevant page or through a pop-up link that directs consumers to more detailed information. Article 28/A also makes it mandatory for the ranking results shown based on advertising, sponsorship, or any other similar agreements to include a sign stating “advertisement”.
Article 28/B introduces significant provisions with regard to user reviews of goods or services purchased online. First of all, the Amending Regulation limits the right to comment on products and services solely to those who have purchased the relevant product or service. People who have not purchased a product or service on the internet are no longer allowed to comment on them. Secondly, it is necessary to inform consumers of the principles for the publication of comments either directly on the relevant webpage where the reviews are published or through a pop-up link that directs the consumers to a more detailed information page.
One of the most important changes to consumer reviews introduced by the Amending Regulation is that it is now obligatory for sellers to publish consumer comments for at least one year, regardless of whether they are positive or negative. Moreover, any consumer whose review is found to be inappropriate for publication should be informed about the issue immediately. In the event that a consumer aggrievement related to online comments made about a good or service is remedied by the seller, this information should also be published under the respective negative comment. The Amending Regulation further prohibits the publication of consumer reviews containing health claims contrary to its own specific legislation.
Last but not least, the Amending Regulation touches upon the issue of fake comments, which is a very common problem nowadays. It is known that some e-commerce companies choose to publish fake reviews to attract more customers and increase their sales figures. The Amending Regulation also explicitly prohibits entering into such agreements or purchasing such services.
According to Article 28/C of the Amending Regulation, complaint platforms that publish consumer complaints must comply with the rules specified in both Article 28/B and Article 28/C. Within this scope, sellers who have received complaints must be given at least 72 hours to exercise their right to make a statement or reply before the complaint is published. Complaints that do not seem to reflect the truth are also prohibited from being published on the platform. Article 28/C further obliges such complaint platforms to provide the seller with an effective communication method, who may use the right to make a statement regarding the complaint, regardless of membership.
Preparing the Guidelines
According to the Amending Regulation, the Advertisement Board will prepare the guidelines to protect consumers against commercial advertising and unfair commercial practices and these guidelines will be published on the Ministry of Commerce's official website. Additionally, articles of the guidelines will be implemented together with the Advertising Regulation upon their publication.
The Amending Regulation introduces many significant updates to the existing provisions for commercial advertisements and unfair commercial practices. Especially in the face of the unstoppable growth of the e-commerce industry, lawmakers have introduced several important obligations for e-commerce sellers requiring them to draw attention to customer reviews and complaints. Therefore, it is highly advisable for relevant persons or companies, such as e-commerce companies, sellers, internet service providers, and complaint platforms to prepare the necessary infrastructure in order to fully comply with the obligations described in the Advertising Regulation.
You may reach the Amending Regulation here. (Available in Turkish only.)
Zeynep İnceer Üçgül