Advertising and Marketing in Turkey

Legislation and regulation
Private enforcement (litigation and administrative procedures)
Misleading advertising
Prohibited and controlled advertising
Social media
Update and trends
Law stated date

Legislation and regulation

Legal framework

What are the principal statutes regulating advertising generally?

The general principles of advertising in Turkey are defined in the Law on Consumer Protection, the Commercial Advertising and Unfair Commercial Practices Regulation issued based on this Law and the Law on the Establishment of Radio and Television and Broadcasting Services. Additionally, other laws and regulations have separate special provisions regarding different channels and product groups.

Regulators

Which bodies are primarily responsible for issuing advertising regulations and enforcing rules on advertising? How is the issue of concurrent jurisdiction among regulators with responsibility for advertising handled?

The Advertising Board was established to ensure that commercial advertisements are reviewed and that they comply with the relevant rules. The Board determines the rules advertisements must comply with, evaluating them within the framework of the Consumer Protection Law.

Additionally, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) is responsible for the regulation and supervision of radio, television and on-demand broadcasting services and broadcast advertising.

Regulation regarding different sales channels and product groups also grant certain rights and authority to the relevant sectoral regulators.

In cases falling under both the sectoral regulator and advertising authority, jurisdictional issues are solved by characteristics of an event. For example, if a penalty is imposed solely because of advertising, the Advertising Board imposes a penalty, and if other non-advertising issues are penalised, the sectoral regulator is authorised to act.

Regulators’ powers

What powers do the regulators have?

The primary competent authority regarding advertising is the Advertising Board. The Board is responsible for reviewing alleged violation of consumer legislation. The Board has a duty and the power to make regulations to protect consumers against unfair commercial practices. After reviewing practices within this framework, a review is carried out if it is deemed necessary. The Board can initiate ex officio examinations, or act on consumer complaints regarding deceptive and unlawful advertising from institutions, organisations and competitor companies.

The Board has authority to impose administrative sanctions on advertisers, advertising agencies and media organisations if a commercial advertisement is not fair, honest or in accordance with public moral standards, public order or personal rights; or is deceptive, exploits consumers’ lack of knowledge or experience, endangers life or property, encourages violence or crime, damages public health, or exploits elders, children or the disabled. It may impose suspension, correction or administrative fines and cautionary suspension of up to three months if deemed necessary.

The secondary competent authority is the RTÜK. RTÜK and the Advertising Board are not mutually exclusive institutions. Therefore, a media channel under the jurisdiction of RTÜK can also be fined by the Advertising Board for advertising or unfair commercial practices. RTÜK's responsibility includes radio, television and on-demand broadcasts, programme support, product placement and similar advertising practices.

Regulators’ priorities

What are the current major concerns of regulators?

A major concern of the Advertising Board is advertising complying with basic principles, accuracy and honesty principles in the Commercial Advertising and Unfair Commercial Practices Regulation. These principles emphasise that advertisements should be created in a way that avoids unfair competition, and does not abuse the consumer's trust or benefit the advertiser through a lack of a consumer’s experience and knowledge, or should not contain expressions or images that may directly or indirectly mislead the consumer. Disguised advertising is prohibited, and the Board also observes whether comparative advertisements are made within its rules.

Owing to covid-19, the Board has increased the number of penalties in its recent decisions, especially for health claims. Reasons for this include advertisers marketing food supplements as medicines or medicinal products for human use, or the marketing of medicines or medicinal products as food supplements. The promotion of food supplements for disease treatment and advertising of medicines and medicinal products for human use are prohibited.

Industry codes

Give brief details of any issued industry codes of practice. What are the consequences for non-compliance?

The Advertising Self-Regulatory Board (RÖK) is the main association of note for industry codes. RÖK was established by the Advertisers’ Association and the Advertising Agents’ Association. They decide on the RÖK principles of suitability for advertisements published in advertising media in Turkey. If advertising messages are found to be against the Self-Regulatory Principles, a recommendation is made to correct or remove the advertisement. If the broadcast continues without making their suggested corrections, RÖK conveys its opinion and states that the advertisement should not be broadcast in its current form.

Authorisation

Must advertisers register or obtain a licence?

Turkish law does not provide a general obligation for registering or licensing advertising activities.

Clearance

May advertisers seek advisory opinions from the regulator? Must certain advertising receive clearance before publication or broadcast?

Real and legal persons can request information from regulatory bodies in the form of a right to information. Therefore, advertisers can request information from regulatory bodies, unless the request exceeds the limits of information, causing the regulatory body to conduct further research. This means that only general information can be requested from regulatory bodies and that a preliminary examination before publication or broadcast cannot be requested based on the right to information.

However, advertisers and advertising agencies may seek pre-broadcast consultancy services from RÖK, who provide non-binding and advisory opinions regarding consumer complaints.

Private enforcement (litigation and administrative procedures)

Challenging competitors advertising

What avenues are available for competitors to challenge advertising? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the different avenues for challenging competitors’ advertising?

Advertisements must not lead to unfair competition under Turkish law as provided by the Consumer Protection Law. Competitors can file a complaint before the Advertising Board on the grounds that the advertisement does not comply with advertising principles and constitutes unfair competition. The Advertising Board is authorised to impose sanctions such as suspension, rectification and administrative fines on unfair competition practices upon the request of the competitor or ex officio.

Competitors can also apply to the Advertising Self-Regulatory Board (RÖK) regarding an advertisement. However, as they are not a regulatory board, decisions granted are not binding and are only advisory. They can advise parties to amend advertisements or to cease publishing or broadcasting them. In cases where parties do not comply with recommendations, RÖK may advise broadcasters and publishers to cease the broadcast and publication of the advertisement.

Competitors can also file a civil lawsuit before the commercial courts for compensation if advertising constitutes unfair competition and causes damage to the competitor. In addition, a competitor can request to the court the ceasing of unfair competition.

Public challenges

How may members of the public or consumer associations challenge advertising? Who has standing to bring a civil action or start a regulatory proceeding? On what grounds?

Commercial advertisements must be honest, accurate and in accordance with public morality, public order, personal rights and the principles set by the Advertising Board. The Advertising Board is responsible for protecting consumer rights against unfair commercial practices and is entitled to impose sanctions against advertisers, advertising agencies and media organisations that act contrary to the obligations specified in the legislation. This examination can be conducted either upon the request of a third party or ex officio.

Consumers may also file a lawsuit before consumer courts for the advertiser to compensate damages. For damage to occur, the advertisement must be deceptive or constitute an unfair commercial practice.

Consumers, competitors, relevant institutions and organisations are entitled to apply to the Advertising Board. For bringing a civil action, on the other hand, the plaintiff must have suffered damage from the unlawful advertisement.

Burden of proof

Which party bears the burden of proof?

Investigations conducted before the Advertising Board are an inquisitorial process. Therefore, the Board collects evidence regarding the violation ex officio. The advertiser can also submit information and documents to the Board.

In the case of a civil action regarding a deceptive advertisement and unfair commercial practice, the advertiser bears the burden of proof in terms of proving that the advertisement is in accordance with the advertising rules. The advertiser must provide scientifically valid information and documentation.

In a compensation claim arising from unfair competition, the plaintiff bears the burden of proof in terms of proving the damage.

Remedies

What remedies may the courts or other adjudicators grant?

The Advertising Board and Radio Television Board can impose sanctions against advertisers in the case of a violation of the law.

The Advertising Board may suspend the advertisement, request it to be corrected or impose an administrative fine of up to 200,000 Turkish lira on advertisers, advertising agencies and media organisations in the case of a violation. The Advertising Board may impose such administrative fines up to 10 times if the violation, subject to investigation, is repeated within one year. The Advertising Board is also authorised to impose a cautionary suspension of the advertisement of up to three months if it is deemed necessary.

In the case of a violation, several administrative sanctions can be imposed by the Radio Television Board to broadcasters. These broadcasting rules also apply to on-demand broadcasting platforms.

Alternatively, it is always possible to file a lawsuit in the courts for compensation if an advertisement causes damage to a consumer or a competitor. The persons whose personal rights are infringed upon can also initiate a civil action. In such cases, the compensation amount will be evaluated according to general provisions of the Civil Code and Code of Obligations. Competitors can request to the court the ceasing of unfair competition as an interim measure while filing these lawsuits. In such a case, the court can decide to suspend the broadcasting of an advertisement. In addition, competitors can bring their claims regarding the ceasing of unfair competition as a separate lawsuit.

Length of proceedings

How long do proceedings normally take from start to conclusion?

There is no time limit prescribed for investigations conducted by the Advertising Board. Proceedings may take up to one year.

Civil court actions filed before consumer courts are likely to be concluded between one year and one and a half years, including the mandatory mediation proceedings, which is the general timeline for consumer disputes. Civil actions filed before commercial courts can take approximately two years, considering the complex nature of unfair competition disputes.

Cost of proceedings

How much do such proceedings typically cost? Are costs and legal fees recoverable?

No fee is provided for applications that are made to the Advertising Board or Radio Television Board, as these proceedings are inquisitorial.

For civil actions before the courts, the application fee may vary according to the compensation amount requested. However, expenses are paid in advance to cover potential expenses incurred within the scope of the case. The court may later require extra expenses during proceedings for things such as an expert report or investigation if necessary.

Appeals

What appeals are available from the decision of a court or other adjudicating body?

Against the Advertising Board’s administrative sanction decisions, an annulment lawsuit may be filed in the administrative courts within 30 days following the notification date of the relevant sanction. The decisions of the Radio Television Board can also be challenged before the administrative courts by filing a lawsuit within 15 days from the decision date.

Parties can appeal a decision to the regional court of appeal, which is the first stage of the two-tiered appeal system in Turkey. Decisions of the regional court of appeal can also be appealed to the Court of Cassation, which is the second and final stage of appeal. Turkish law provides limits regarding the appeal. According to that, decisions with a value not exceeding 5,880 Turkish lira cannot be appealed to the regional court of appeal, while decisions with a value less than 78,630 Turkish lira cannot be appealed to the Court of Cassation.

Misleading advertising

Editorial and advertising

How is editorial content differentiated from advertising?

Advertisements must be visually and aurally distinguishable from editorial content.

If a title, logo, set or music identified with the article, broadcast, or programme published in any broadcast media is used in an advertisement, it should be easy for consumers to notice that the message in question is an advertisement.

If an image or sound effect identified with news bulletins or public service announcements is used in an advertisement, it should be easy for consumers to notice that the message in question is an advertisement.

Except for films and series created for cinema and television, sports, and general entertainment programmes, product placement is not allowed in broadcasts. In product placement, the rental or purchase of products or services cannot be directly encouraged and excessive emphasis cannot be placed on the product. At the beginning of the programme, at the end of the programme and after the advertisement break when the programme starts, viewers must be informed about the existence of product placement.

Advertising that requires substantiation

How does your law distinguish between ‘puffery’ and advertising claims that require support?

Puffery advertising refers to the use of exaggerated expressions in advertisements. Although there is no explicit provision for exaggerated advertisements in the respective legislation, according to the general advertising principles, objectively incorrect claims that may mislead the consumer should be avoided by advertisers.

However, not all advertisements that contain exaggerated expressions are considered misleading advertising in advance. The determining factor here is considered to be a consumer’s objective perception. If the level of surrealism of an expression can easily be perceived or may not be taken seriously by the consumer, then this would strengthen the notion that the relevant advertisement is in accordance with the advertising legislation. By contrast, where such expressions may be taken seriously by the target public, then it means the advertisement may be considered within the scope of a misleading act and sanctioned.

In addition, some laws include specific provisions for exaggerated advertising. For example, it is explicitly prohibited to include exaggerated information in health-related advertisements as per the Private Hospital Regulation published in 2004.

Rules on misleading advertising

What are the general rules regarding misleading advertising? Must all material information be disclosed? Are disclaimers and footnotes permissible?

Commercial advertisements misleading the consumer or exploiting their lack of experience and knowledge are not allowed according to the general rules regarding misleading advertising.

Names, trademarks, logos or other distinctive shapes or expressions related to goods or services in articles, news, broadcasts and programmes without clearly indicating that they are advertisements, placing the trade names or business names to advertise and presenting it as promotional in nature, is considered covert advertising. Covert advertising is also prohibited in all kinds of audio, written and visual communication tools.

Disclaimers and footnotes are permissible in advertisements; however, they must be of readable and perceptible speed and size. In addition to this, conditions or exceptions in subtitles, static text or footnotes should not entirely or largely eliminate the advantages of the essential promise and should not be inconsistent with it.

Audio expressions, visuals, footnotes, subtitles or information contained in stationary texts should not conflict with each other.

Substantiating advertising claims

Must an advertiser have proof of the claims it makes in advertising before publishing? Are there recognised standards for the type of proof necessary to substantiate claims?

There is no legal obligation to prove the claims asserted in advertisements before publication or within the advertisement. However, upon complaint or in the case of a possible ex-officio examination by the Advertising Board, scientific reports and documents should be presented to the Board.

For comparative advertising, the advertiser is obliged to prove the accuracy of every claim in commercial advertisements. Where necessary, it must be proved with documented information from relevant university departments or by accredited or independent research, testing and evaluation institutions.

It may be accepted that some abstract claims are not expected to be proven by the Advertising Board. However, the Board takes an entirely different attitude in terms of claims that are both abstract and superlative in advertisements. The Board imposes sanctions on statements such as ‘the best’, ‘perfect’ and ‘number one in the world’ if these allegations are not proven, on the grounds that these allegations exceed abstract claims and must be proven.

Survey results

Are there specific requirements for advertising claims based on the results of surveys?

According to the Regulation on Commercial Advertisement and Unfair Commercial Practices, claims regarding verifiable facts in advertisements must be proven with scientifically valid information and documentation. If deemed necessary, information and documents obtained from relevant departments of universities or independent research, testing and evaluation institutions may be requested by respective authorities.

In this context, any information that may affect the consumer's final purchasing decision must be included in a time and form that the average consumer can perceive. For this reason, considering that research results have a role in influencing the decisions of consumers, reasonable information should be briefly included in the relevant content. It is also explicitly prohibited by the Regulation to distort research results contained in advertisements or quotations from scientific publications, and to present statistics differently from the actual results.

Moreover, it is stipulated in the Law on the Establishment of Radio and Television Enterprises that surveys and public opinion polls conducted or made by the media service provider must be carried out under the supervision of a notary from the preparation stage until the announcement of results.

Comparisons with competitors

What are the rules for comparisons with competitors? Is it permissible to identify a competitor by name?

According to the current advertising legislation in force, comparative advertisements are only allowed provided that:

  • they do not include any distinctive signs and expressions of competitors;
  • they are not of a misleading nature;
  • they do not give rise to unfair competition in the market;
  • the compared goods or services meet the same needs or purpose the same aim;
  • an aspect providing benefits to the consumers is compared;
  • the relevant goods or services objectively compare one or more tangible, essential, verifiable and characteristic features, including the price of the compared goods or services;
  • objective and measurable arguments based on numeric data can be proved by tests, reports or such other documents;
  • they do not disparage or disgrace a rival’s goods, services, activities or other properties;
  • the goods or services are procured from the same geographical region in cases where the goods or services are of a known origin;
  • they do not give rise to confusion between the advertiser and a rival of the advertiser, the rival’s trademarks, trade name, company name, other distinctive marks or goods or services; and
  • they are not contrary to the principles determined by the Advertising Board.

Namely, it is not permissible to identify a competitor’s trade name, company name or other distinctive signs and expressions under the Advertising Regulation.

Test and study results

Do claims suggesting tests and studies prove a product’s superiority require higher or special degrees or types of proof?

Advertisers are obliged to prove the accuracy of claims in their advertisements. Claims regarding verifiable facts in advertisements must be proven with scientifically valid information and documentation. If deemed necessary, information and documents obtained from relevant departments of universities, or accredited or independent research, testing and evaluation institutions may be requested by respective authorities.

Moreover, claims that are subject to comparison in comparative advertisements must in any case be proven by information and documents obtained from relevant departments of universities, or accredited or independent research from testing and evaluation institutions. The reports submitted in this context must prove the claims in the advertisement at the publishing date.

Demonstrating performance

Are there special rules for advertising depicting or demonstrating product performance?

As per the main guiding legislation, advertisements must be prepared in accordance with awareness of economic and social responsibility by considering their possible impacts on consumers. Accordingly, they may not contain any expression or image that may directly or indirectly mislead the consumer about the properties of the product, such as the structure, composition, supply, benefit, risk, accessories, production method and date, suitability for the purpose, usage, useful life and usage areas, technical features, efficiency and performance, quantity, origin, and environmental impact.

Third-party endorsements

Are there special rules for endorsements or testimonials by third parties, including statements of opinions, belief or experience?

According to the Regulation on Commercial Advertisement and Unfair Commercial Practices, advertisements may not contain any statement or image regarding the private or social life of third parties or refer directly to relevant persons without endorsement. Moreover, they may not display or specify the private property of the relevant person in a way that would create the effect of personal approval being given to the product or organisation.

The Regulation also stipulates that advertisements may not include or refer to any unreal testimony or confirmation statement that is not based on the experience, knowledge or research results of a person, institution or organisation whose testimony is consulted.

In addition, any action that deceives or is likely to deceive consumers about relevant statements or symbols indicating the approval of products or services by the competent authorities is considered as a ‘misleading action’. For this reason, documents such as licences, permits, approvals, registrations and other legal documents required to be obtained as per the relevant legislation, may not be used in advertisements in a way that creates the perception that the product or service is different or superior compared to other products or services in the market.

Guarantees

Are there special rules for advertising guarantees?

Under the Regulation on Commercial Advertisement and Unfair Commercial Practices, it is stipulated that advertisements may not contain misleading statements about delivery, product exchanges or return, warranty, after-sales services, spare parts or maintenance and repair conditions as it would constitute a ‘misleading action’. Therefore, all claims in advertisements must be accurate and honest regarding guarantees and warranties.

Environmental impact

Are there special rules for claims about a product’s impact on the environment?

According to the relevant article of the Regulation on Commercial Advertisement and Unfair Commercial Practices covering environmental issues, any action that deceives or is likely to deceive consumers about the environmental impact of a product or service are considered to be a misleading action. Any commercial practice regarding a misleading action would constitute an unfair commercial practice, and such actions may therefore be sanctioned as per the Regulation.

Moreover, advertisements may not be created in a way that exploits the environmental awareness of consumers or the possible lack of information that they might have. Within this scope, it is prohibited by the Regulation to use environmental signs, symbols or approvals in a way that deceives consumers in advertisements.

Only scientific findings and technical expressions that are based on scientific studies approved by relevant academic institutions on environmental impacts may be used in advertisements.

In advertisements for products that require energy labelling, in accordance with the relevant legislation, the energy efficiency class of the relevant product must be clearly specified if information related to this matter will be included.

Free and special price claims

Are there special rules for describing something as free or a free trial or for special price or savings claims?

If an advertisement contains the price or the calculating method of a price, information given must be directly related to the specific advertised product or service. It is prohibited to mislead consumers by providing inaccurate information about pricing or to cause ambiguity.

If a product or service will be provided free of charge, the obligations to be fulfilled by consumers must be clearly stated in the main message of the advertisement. In terms of advertisements that include any written, audio or visual statement indicating a discount for a product or service, it is mandatory to state clearly and understandably the start and end dates of the discounted sale and the quantity of products or services, if such items are offered in limited amounts. Moreover, in discounted sales advertisements, it is prohibited to use any expression or image that may mislead consumers by causing ambiguity about which products or services are subject to a relevant discount, as well as the amount of discount offered.

The burden of proof that the products or services subject to a discount are offered for sale at a price lower than the actual price belongs to the advertiser.

New and improved

Are there special rules for claiming a product is new or improved?

According to the Regulation on Commercial Advertisement and Unfair Commercial Practices, all advertisements must be true. Advertisements may not mislead the consumer by containing expressions or images that may directly or indirectly indicate a product is ‘new’ or ‘improved’ unless it really is so. Otherwise, it would constitute a misleading commercial activity to use such terms if the relevant product or service had already been advertised before, and such advertising would then be subject to sanction.

Claims of origin

Are there special rules for claiming where a product is made (such as country of origin)?

General principles of the Regulation on Commercial Advertisement and Unfair Commercial Practices apply. Accordingly, it is explicitly prohibited to misdirect the consumer about the country of origin. If a product or service was not produced in the mentioned place, it is a misleading advertisement and may be sanctioned by the competent authorities.

To claim a product’s country of origin: the product must be created entirely in the country of origin; or it must be created in the country of origin and can contain substances not fully created or obtained in the country of origin, provided that they have been adequately processed within the country of origin.

Prohibited and controlled advertising

Prohibited products and services

What products and services may not be advertised?

The main prohibited products and services are introduced in the primary legislation. Additionally, there are complementary prohibitions introduced in a number of specific sectoral legislation.

The goods and services that are prohibited as per the primary legislation are:

  • in the field of healthcare: pharmaceuticals and medical treatments subject to prescriptions;
  • in the field of adult content: pornography and resources containing explicit content, prostitution and sex services, massages, stripping and strip clubs, adult erotic and sexual products, and matchmaking services;
  • in the field of gambling: illegal gambling, casinos, online casinos and all products or services organised similarly to gambling; and
  • in the field of alternative entertainment: services of psychics, astrologers and seers.

The goods and services that are prohibited as per sectoral legislation are:

  • in the field of business: legal and audit services and suppliers of these services, tax and financial consultancy, legal consultancy, and medical advice services;
  • in the field of stimulating products: alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, drugs or any activity facilitators and stimulants; and
  • in the field of gambling: games of chance played by virtual media.
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Prohibited advertising methods

Are certain advertising methods prohibited?

According to the Regulation on Broadcast Service Procedure and Principles, commercial communication with subliminal messages and hidden commercial communication are prohibited. ‘Hidden commercial communication’ is defined as when a producer of goods or services uses their activities, brands, names and services for advertising purposes without explicitly stating that it is advertising and outside a space designated for advertising.

Apart from these regulations, a restriction has been imposed on electronic commerce. According to the Law on the Regulation of Electronic Commerce, prior consent is required to send emails to individuals for advertising or promotional purposes. This consent can be obtained in writing or by any means of electronic communication. The content of the commercial electronic message must comply with the consent received from the recipient. An exception has been made for traders and merchants. Commercial electronic messages can be sent to these persons without prior consent.

Protection of minors

What are the rules for advertising as regards minors and their protection?

The Commercial Advertising and Unfair Commercial Practices Regulation contains detailed provisions regarding advertisements to children. The primary rules regarding advertisements aimed at or likely to affect children are as follows.

Advertisements aimed at or likely to affect children, and advertisements with characters played by children:

  • cannot contain any expression or image that could negatively affect the physical, mental, moral, psychological and social development of children;
  • cannot contain any expressions or images that could put children in dangerous situations or encourage them to associate with people they do not know or enter unknown or dangerous places;
  • cannot contain violent elements that children can imitate;
  • cannot contain statements or images of abuse of the private trust children have in their parents, teachers or other persons;
  • cannot contain elements that would weaken or eliminate the authority and responsibility of parents or teachers;
  • cannot contain elements that would weaken or eliminate the authority and responsibility of parents or teachers; and
  • must contain reminders in the forms of symbols or warnings that ensure that the necessary precautions are taken for goods or services that may harm the health of children or those around them if no measures are taken.

Credit and financial products

Are there special rules for advertising credit or financial products?

According to the Commercial Advertising and Unfair Commercial Practices Regulation, in advertisements where interest and dividend rates are included, these rates must be clearly specified and conditions affecting the total amount obtained at the end of the term must be included. If interest and profit share rates are included in advertisements for credit services, the monthly and annual percentage value of the total cost of the loan to the consumer should be clearly and understandably stated in the main promise of the advertisement. In such advertisements, consumers cannot be misled regarding the type and term of the loan, the required guarantees, or other required features or repayment conditions.

Therapeutic goods and services

Are there special rules for claims made about therapeutic goods and services?

Advertising pharmaceutical products to consumers is prohibited by Turkish law. However, the promotion of these products to inform necessary authorities, such as medical practitioners about pharmaceutical products is not completely prohibited. In accordance with the Regulation on Promotional Activities for Medicinal Products for Human Use, promotional activities for medicinal products for human use within the scope of the Regulation can be conducted for physicians, dentists and pharmacists. Promotion can be carried out by using promotional materials, organising or supporting scientific meetings and product promotion meetings, or by visiting these people using product promotion representatives. However, these products cannot be promoted directly or indirectly to the public through any media or communication medium open to the public, including the internet.

The regulation of medical devices is included in the Medical Device Sales, Advertising and Promotion Regulation. Accordingly, devices such as oral care products, plasters, condoms and cotton can be advertised freely to consumers. Devices that are sold only in hearing aid centres, custom-made prosthesis and orthotics centres, opticians, dental prosthesis laboratories, or are intended to be used or applied exclusively by healthcare professionals and that require application in medical device sales centres, cannot be advertised.

Food and health

Are there special rules for claims about foodstuffs regarding health and nutrition, and weight control?

The Regulation on Import, Production, Processing and Market Supply of Supplementary Foods and the  Turkish Food Codex Supplementary Food Communiqué contains comprehensive provisions on supplementary foods. According to the regulations, supplementary foods refer to capsules, tablets and similar dosed products that are used to support the diet of people and contain vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs or bioactive substances. As supplements are not evaluated in the pharmaceutical category, statements requiring scientific evidence, misleading or deceptive claims and health claims other than those allowed in the legislation cannot be included in advertisements of these foodstuffs. Additionally, according to the most recent version of the Commercial Advertising and Unfair Commercial Practices Regulation, comparative advertising of supplementary foods is completely prohibited.

As complementary regulators in this regard, the Advertising Board and the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) acts carefully on advertisements of supplementary foods. Recently, penalties have been imposed for advertising slimming drugs and supplements that claim to be effective against covid-19. The reason for the penalties is that these products are promoted as drugs in advertisements, but they contain misleading information and are not drugs. Advertisements containing such misleading information are considered as deceptive advertisements, and the Advertising Board and RTÜK can impose fines on advertisers and media channels.

Alcohol

What are the rules for advertising alcoholic beverages?

Advertising alcoholic beverages on radio and television or through any other media channel is completely prohibited. In addition, campaigns and promotions for alcoholic beverages are also prohibited. Emblems, brands or logos of these products cannot appear on showcases, signs or similar surfaces. Workplaces with an alcoholic beverage licence are the only areas that can be considered outside the prohibition. The service equipment of these workplaces can have an alcoholic beverage brand, logo or emblem.

Alcoholic beverage producers, importers and marketers may not sponsor any event using the brand, logo or emblem of the products. These products may only be promoted internationally at special fairs and scientific publications and events. It is also prohibited to distribute alcoholic beverages as promotions, giveaways, incentives, gifts or free of charge.

Tobacco

What are the rules for advertising tobacco products?

Recently, new regulations have been introduced regarding tobacco products. These regulations, which began with rules regarding health warnings on tobacco packages, were followed by rules that required flat and standard form in the packages. The manufacturer's brand, logo, symbol or other marks must not appear anywhere on tobacco products. The brand can only be written in the colour and font determined by the regulation. Additionally, in order not to encourage these products, it is prohibited to display tobacco products in any content shown on any media channel.

Gambling

Are there special rules for advertising gambling?

For betting games to be played legally, special permission must be obtained from the state in Turkey. Placing online bets outside of authorised betting sites is a crime according to the Law on the Regulation of Betting in Football and Other Sports Competitions. Within the scope of this Law, advertising illegal gambling and illegal betting sites is also a crime, and those who do this can be subject to both judicial and administrative penalties. The Commercial Advertising and Unfair Commercial Practices Regulation also clearly states that illegal betting and gambling games cannot be advertised in any way. It is also possible to block access to websites that advertise illegal betting and gambling.

Lotteries

What are the rules for advertising lotteries?

In Turkey, lotteries and sweepstakes can be divided into two categories: cash equivalent and non-cash equivalent lotteries. The right to organise lotteries with cash equivalent belongs only to the General Directorate of the National Lottery Administration. Real and legal persons engaged in business activities, public institutions and organisations, associations, foundations, communities, retirement and solidarity funds, sports clubs, and parent–teacher associations can organise non-cash equivalent lotteries. However, these persons must obtain permission from the Administration to organise lotteries.

According to the National Lottery Administration Regulation on Non-Cash Lottery and Sweepstakes, it is forbidden to carry out advertising and promotional activities that disturb the public order, encourage harmful and bad habits, are contrary to general morality and manners, and deceive or mislead the public. Additionally, it must be clearly stated in the lottery announcements and advertisements that those under the age of 18 cannot participate in the organised lottery and that prizes they win will not be awarded even if they have participated.

Promotional contests

What are the requirements for advertising and offering promotional contests?

According to the Commercial Advertising and Unfair Commercial Practices Regulation, if marketing techniques that give the right to participate in a contest are announced by purchasing the advertised goods or services or accumulating a certain number of coupons, labels, caps or similar items, the start and end date of the promotion period and conditions regarding the delivery of goods or performance of services must be explained to consumers. The prize should meet average consumer expectations within the scope of the contest and must not differ from what was promised. All rules, conditions and other issues related to the advertisement must be in Turkish.

Indirect marketing

Are there any restrictions on indirect marketing, such as commercial sponsorship of programmes and product placement?

Product placement and sponsorship activities can be shown as examples of indirect marketing in Turkish law. In the Regulation on Broadcast Service Procedure and Principles, product placement can be made in films, series, sports and general entertainment programmes made for cinema and television, and also in radio broadcasting services. Although product placement is not restricted, certain conditions must be met in order to do so. For instance, it should be stated that there is product placement in certain parts of the programme where product placement will be applied. The placed product should be used in its natural environment as if it were a part of the programme, and the products under advertising prohibition should not be used for product placement. Product placement must not be carried out in a way that breaks the surreptitious advertising ban.

In Turkey, the Law on the Establishment and Broadcast Services of Radio and Television uses the concept of programme support instead of programme sponsorship. According to the Law, programme support is any kind of contribution made to programmes to promote the name, brand, logo, image, activities or products of real or legal persons who are not connected with the provision of broadcasting services or production of audiovisual works. The main difference between sponsorship and product placement is the inclusion in the programme. At the beginning and end of the programme and during commercial breaks, it is stated that the programme is supported by the sponsor, but the sponsor cannot be referred to in the programme promotions. In the supported programme, no reference can be made to sponsor-owned goods or services. Programmes cannot be supported by real and legal persons dealing with the production or sale of goods and services whose advertisement is prohibited. Additionally, programme support is not allowed in news bulletins and religious ceremony broadcasts.

Other advertising rules

Briefly give details of any other notable special advertising regimes.

Political advertisements are permitted in the Law on the Establishment and Broadcast Services of Radio and Televisions. Within the scope of the Law, media service providers may broadcast advertisements for political parties and candidates during the election period until the start of prescribed election broadcasting bans. The aim of the political advertisement is for candidates to explain themselves and their political activities to the public. For this reason, media service providers should provide services in a way that ensures equal opportunity among candidates so that the selection can be made freely and fairly under equal conditions.

In the Commercial Advertising and Unfair Commercial Practices Regulation, it is stated that advertisements cannot contain expressions or images contrary to the general morality rules. It is also stated in the same Regulation that advertisements cannot contain denigration, abuse, prejudice or discrimination against different languages, races, colours, genders, political opinions, philosophical beliefs, religions, sects or similar characteristics. Similar rules are also stipulated in the Law. According to the principles of the broadcast service, broadcast services cannot incite society to hatred and hostility or create feelings of hatred in the society by considering race, language, religion, gender, class, region and sect.

To protect the language, it is stated in various regulations that Turkish used in advertisements should be correct, clear and understandable. In addition, advertising messages cannot be given in slang words.

Social media

Regulation

Are there any rules particular to your jurisdiction pertaining to the use of social media for advertising?

There is no specific regulation regarding social media advertising provided by Turkish law. Advertising through social media is subject to general advertising principles such as accuracy, honesty, public order, not misleading target public and not causing unfair competition in the market. In addition, social media activities in general are subject to the Law on the Regulation of Publications on the Internet and Suppression of Crimes Committed by Means of Such Publications.

The main advertising rule usually violated in social media is prohibition of covert advertising. Under the Consumer Protection Law, covert advertisements are prohibited in all kinds of communication media, including audio, written, visual and social media, on the grounds it constitutes a misleading act. Names, brands, logos or expressions related to goods or services may not be advertised in an introductory manner without explicitly indicating that it is an advertisement. However, as it is controversial whether an influencer’s post regarding a product or service used is within the scope of covert advertising or not, the Advertising Board usually considers and imposes sanctions against social media advertisements of products that are only prohibited to be advertised, such as health products, alcoholic beverages and tobacco products.

Have there been notable instances of advertisers being criticised for their use of social media?

In practice, covert advertisements on social media platforms are frequently criticised by users. When users see any advice or suggestion regarding a brand in the content they are exposed to, they generally get the impression that it is an advertisement. In this context, such viral advertisements may sometimes be subject to user complaints. For example, the Advertising Board has recently imposed an administrative fine against influencers and celebrities owing to their expressions on social media stating that a certain health product provides production against covid-19.

Are there regulations governing privacy concerns when using social media?

Privacy matters regarding social media advertisements are mainly regulated by the general Law on Personal Data Protection. As social media providers are considered data controllers, they must comply with all the obligations set out under the personal data protection legislation. Advertisers who would like to make advertisements by using visuals and information of the persons are also subject to the provisions of Law on Personal Data Protection. Accordingly, such data can only be used or processed by advertisers if the use and processing of data has a legal base or the explicit consent of the data owners is obtained.

In addition, the deficit in the regulation on cookies has started to be met gradually by the Personal Data Protection Board. In a recent decision of the Board, the investigated company was fined because the explicit consent of the data owners has not been taken, for the cookies that require explicit consent, and the investigated company did not meet its clarification obligation. Therefore, advertisers who do advertise on social media should consider their cookie collection policies.

Update and trends

Recent developments

Are there any emerging trends or hot topics in your jurisdiction?

The most important change affecting advertising rules is the amendment to Law on Establishing Radio and Television Platforms and Broadcasting Services No. 6112 on 27 March 2018. Accordingly, the Regulation on Radio Television and On-Demand Broadcast on the Internet entered into force on 1 August 2019, which introduces principles of the licensing and audit of such broadcasts. With the amendment and regulation, broadcasting on the internet became subject to the broadcasting principles of the Radio Television Board. Accordingly, the advertisements broadcast on such platforms are also subject to the general broadcasting principles of the Radio Television Board.

Another hot topic in Turkey is social media advertising. There is no special regulation implemented on social media advertising. However, the number of misleading and covert advertisements on social media is rapidly growing. The Advertising Board is trying to solve this problem through general principles and rules on advertising. However, as social media advertising can be seen in many different forms, the existing regulations are not sufficient for preventing unlawful advertisements published on social media.

Coronavirus

What emergency legislation, relief programmes and other initiatives specific to your practice area has your state implemented to address the pandemic? Have any existing government programmes, laws or regulations been amended to address these concerns? What best practices are advisable for clients?

The Turkish government introduced a number of general covid-19 relief measures for companies and employers; such general measures have also been utilised in the advertising and marketing industries.

The main remedies are the employment law remedies that have been enacted to protect both employees and employers.

To this effect, the Turkish government passed measures to prevent employers from terminating the employment contracts of their employees during the pandemic. Accordingly, the Employment Law was amended, and the termination of the employment contracts has been restricted unless the employee has violated the moral rules and goodwill, the employment contract is expired, the workplace is closed or the work the employee was employed for is over.

While the above amendment protects the employees and prevents an increase in unemployment levels in Turkey, employers are also allowed to unilaterally place employees on unpaid leave up to the duration that the prohibition on termination of employment continues.

In addition, the Turkish government allowed the companies whose business operations decreased owing to the pandemic to apply for short-time working allowance.

Law stated date

Correct as of

Please state the date on which the law stated here is accurate.

9 February 2021.

This article was first published on Lexology GTDT in February 2021. See our Lexology content here.