Paris has long been heralded as one of the world’s fashion capitals, bringing to mind pictures of models supporting the latest designer outfits.

But do these models really look like that? And if they don’t, does it matter?

Well according to the French Health Ministry – Yes.

The Health Ministry is therefore taking steps to address this by "preventing the promotion of unattainable ideals of beauty”, which it considers can be blamed for eating disorders and associated health issues amongst the French youth.

One element of this is the introduction of Articles L 2133-2, R 2133-4, R 2133-5 and R 2133-6 of the French Public Health Code, dubbed “the Photoshop Decree”.

What does it mean?

From 1st October 2017, any photograph used for commercial advertising where the figure of the model has been ‘refined or thickened’ will need to bear the notice “Photographie retouchée” (Retouched Photograph). This is part of a larger effort to protect the health of models, who will also have to provide a note from a doctor to prove they are not dangerously thin when applying for jobs.

The provisions will apply to all advertising campaigns whether physical or online, whether fashion or not; with the desired outcome being that advertisers will not use unhealthy models or edited photos at all going forward.

The regulations state that the "notice must be affixed in the manner that is accessible, easily readable and clearly distinct from the advertising or promotional message" and that it must comply with "rules and conventions of good practice defined by the industry". So whilst it remains to be seen just how distinct the French authorities think such warnings must be; it is apparent that they will need to be clear and readable.

Does this affect advertisers in the UK?

In the UK, broadcast advertising is governed by the BCAP code and non-broadcast advertising by the CAP code. Both codes apply to adverts published in the UK and contain an obligation that they not be ‘materially misleading’. Neither goes as far as the Photoshop Decree.

Whether this matters to UK advertisers depends on how the ‘online’ element of the regulations might be interpreted. Would this cover all adverts aimed at French consumers? Or all adverts accessible to French consumers? Or even all adverts on the internet? If it applies to all adverts that could be accessed in France, it is arguable that UK based advertisers could fall foul of the law without ever knowing about it, despite not intending to market their products in France.

How stringent the French authorities will be in enforcing this new law remains to be seen. It is however something UK advertisers need to be alert to; especially when failure to comply could incur a €37,500 fine, which can be increased to 30% of the expenses incurred to produce the advert.