Q&A: Online Advertising in Turkey

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Regulation

What rules govern Internet advertising?

The Consumer Protection Law governs commercial advertising aimed at consumers in Turkey. The definition of commercial advertising is defined broadly in the law and covers advertising on the Internet. The competent authority is the Advertising Council, which has the power to investigate and control all advertising activities and to impose administrative fines. All advertisements must be true and fair and must not violate public order, public morals, personal rights and the principles issued by the Advertising Council. Unfair commercial activity (eg misleading or aggressive activities) is also prohibited and the Advertising Council may impose administrative fines for violations thereof. The Commercial Advertising and Unfair Commercial Activities Regulation provides more detail on the rules established by consumer protection law. In addition, the Law on the Establishment and Principles of Radio and Television Broadcasting applies to on-demand broadcasters. Any advertising via these broadcasts would be subject to said law.

Based on the Consumer Protection Act and the Commercial Advertisements and Unfair Commercial Activities Regulations, the Department of Commerce issued the “Directive on Commercial Advertisements and Unfair Commercial Activities of Social Media Influencers” in May 2021. The directive defines social media influencers, requires advertisements made by them to be presented in a clear and understandable way and prohibits any clandestine advertising activity.

Advertising of specific products and services is also regulated. Advertising of financial services is subject to the specific rules set out in the Commercial Advertising and Unfair Commercial Activities Regulation. Accordingly, such advertisements should accurately state interest and dividend rates and include any conditions that would affect the total amount accrued at the rate at maturity. Advertising for drugs, medical devices, health services, supplements, cosmetics, cleaning products, tobacco products and alcoholic beverages, among others, is further regulated in the relevant legislation.

A recent amendment to the Law on the Regulation of Publications on the Internet and the Prevention of Offenses Committed through Such Publications (the Internet Law) introduced the prohibition of online advertising for social network providers without making distinction between the products or services advertised. Accordingly, the Information and Communication Technology Authority may impose an advertising ban on a social network provider which has more than one million daily users in Turkey if said provider does not appoint a representative in Turkey.

Definition

How is online advertising defined? Could online editorial content fall under advertising rules?

In consumer protection law, commercial advertising is defined as marketing announcements made by advertisers in connection with trade, business, craft or profession; made through verbal, visual or written communication tools or similar methods; for the purpose of selling or renting a good or service for the purpose of informing or persuading the target audience. Although there is no specific definition of online advertising in the relevant legislation, it falls within the scope of commercial advertising. That said, the Advertising Council has issued rulings on advertisements posted online and issued administrative fines for online advertising in violation of said law.

Surreptitious advertising is not permitted under any circumstances in accordance with the Consumer Protection Act and the Commercial Advertising and Unfair Commercial Practices Regulations. Surreptitious advertising is defined as the inclusion or promotion of trade names or trade names in articles, information, broadcasts and programs, using names, trademarks, logos or other distinctive forms or expressions products or services without explicitly disclosing or making clear that they are advertised. In other words, the advertiser must be identifiable by the target audience.

False advertising

Are there rules against misleading advertising online?

Misleading advertising is governed by the Consumer Protection Act and the Commercial Advertising and Unfair Commercial Activities Regulations. Accordingly, advertisers are required to prove that their advertised claims are true. Advertisers must support their claims with scientific documents and information. Where applicable, the Régie de la Publicité may also ask the advertiser to provide information or documents obtained from universities or approved research or test centres.

Restrictions

Are there any products or services that cannot be advertised on the Internet?

Currently, several products and services may not be advertised under various regulations that apply specifically to them. According to the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Preparations Act, any advertising of medicines and medicines for human use is prohibited. In addition, any advertising of alcoholic beverages and tobacco is prohibited by the Liquor and Alcoholic Beverages Act and the Prevention and Control of Harm from Tobacco Products Act. Legal services, gambling and accounting services can be cited as examples for other sectors and services that cannot be advertised. Although the aforementioned regulations do not specifically mention online advertising, they apply because of the broad definition of advertising contained therein.

Responsibility of the host

What is the responsibility of content providers and parties who only host the content, such as ISPs? Can other parties be responsible?

Under Internet law, content providers are primarily responsible for the content they post online. Hosts and access providers are not required to monitor the content they store or transmit. That said, hosting and access providers must, in all cases, comply with judicial or administrative decisions regarding the removal or blocking of access to content.