Prior to building up or transplanting their advertising campaigns in Greece, businesses wishing to acquire a share in the local media market, besides familiarizing themselves with their industry sector through review and analysis of the industry economics, participants, and main competitors, should immerse themselves into the regulatory framework for advertising that will enable them to develop their business plan and marketing strategies most efficiently.
Advertising in Greece is regulated both at a statutory level, by virtue of Law 146/1914 on Unfair Competition, Law 2251/1994 on Consumer Protection, and the Greek Code of Advertising and on a general principles basis. General principles require that all advertisements be true and transparent, with objectivity as a guiding principle, subject to the fact that a large number of transactional decisions are emotion-driven.
Five different types of advertising are expressly regulated under Greek laws: unfair advertisements, misleading advertisements, aggressive advertisements, comparative advertisements, and direct advertisements. Businesses that aim at complying with Greek advertising regulatory standards should definitely refrain from the first three types and be highly cautious when proceeding with the latter two.
Law 146/1914 classifies any advertisement that does not comply with the principles of morality as unfair and classifies any inaccurate public declaration related to the quality, origin, manufacture or pricing of the advertised goods or services that gives consumers the impression of an extremely good offer as misleading – and explicitly prohibits both practices. In determining whether an advertisement is misleading, the law also considers its possible influence on consumers’ economic behavior.
Aggressive advertisements fall within the scope of Law 2251/1994, which refers to advertisements that use harassment or coercion (in the form of physical force or undue influence), that significantly impair or are likely to significantly impair the average consumer’s freedom of choice, or inappropriate behavior with respect to the advertised goods or services and, thus, lead or are likely to lead consumers to a transactional decision that they would not have made otherwise. Unsolicited phone calls, personal visits to the consumer’s private space despite the consumer’s request to leave and not return, or refusal to leave the premises until a transaction is made are all examples of aggressive advertisements.
The remaining two types of advertising – direct and comparative advertisement – may be lawful under certain circumstances. Law 2251/1994 permits communication directly to the consumer, but only upon the consumer’s express consent. Comparative advertising, for its part, is considered to be a permissible commercial practice as long as it compares goods or services meeting the same needs or intended for the same purpose, is carried out in an objective way, and is based on any material, verifiable, and representative features of the goods or services – such as price. However, the law deprives comparative advertisement of its lawful character where, inter alia, it is misleading, takes unfair advantage of or discredits the competitor’s trademark and/or reputation, or intends to create confusion with the competitor’s products or trademarks.
Besides the above-mentioned hard-core regulatory framework, the overwhelming majority of illegal and misleading advertising cases are regulated by the Greek Code of Advertising, which basically incorporates all relevant provisions of the respective code of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and binds all parties involved, namely advertisers, consumers, and the media. While observance of the provisions of the Code is carried out by the Communication Control Council, advertisement control is vested upon the First Instance Control Committee and the Second Instance Control Committee, which are able to issue directly enforceable decisions to be immediately implemented by the media as members of the Council. Any advertisement that is deemed to be in violation of the Code’s provisions may be brought before the Committees either ex officio or by a written petition of any third party entitled to do so.
It is, therefore, essential that national and international businesses that aim to market their goods, services, or activities in the Greek market become entirely aware of the respective regulatory landscape governing truth in advertising and marketing and implement internal checklists and formal review processes, including training and clearance procedures by legal counsel, in order to ensure full compliance with the applicable advertising standards and avoid unscheduled downtime, as well as costly lawsuits and civil penalties.