In early July 2013, Law no. 202/2013 (“Law 202”) was published in the Official Gazette of Romania, amending Law no. 158/2008 on misleading and comparative advertising. The new enactment shifts the prerogatives to deal with instances of illegal comparative advertising picked-up by consumers from the Ministry of Finances towards the National Consumer Protection Authority (“NCPA”).
- Starting July 6, 2013, consumers, defined according to the criteria set by Government Ordinance no. 21/1992, i.e. any individual or group of individuals organized in associations, acting for purposes outside its trade, industrial or production activity, craft or profession, having a legitimate interest, may refer cases of illegal comparative advertising directly to the NCPA. Until now, even if filed with NCPA, petitions submitted by consumers were referred to the Ministry of Public Finance or to the National Audiovisual Council.
- As such, from now on, the oversight and enforcement prerogatives are split between the Ministry of Public Finance, which reviews claims of misleading / illegal comparative advertising, based on complaints of companies, associations and organizations or ex officio and, if the case, sanctions them, and NCPA which reviews only cases of illegal comparative advertising, based on complaints of consumers or ex officio and order the same sanctions as the Ministry of Public Finance.
- The right of companies to notify the cases of misleading / illegal comparative advertising is subject to a threemonth prescription term (calculated from the date of becoming aware of such advertising, but no later than six months after the occurrence thereof), while the right of consumers to notify the cases of illegal comparative advertising is subject to a limitation period of 6 months (calculated from the occurrence date of such advertising).
A few days later, still in July 2013, Law no. 185/2013 (“Law 185”) regarding the location and approval of advertising means entered into effect and set out specific rules in respect of outdoor advertising.
- Law 185 sets out general rules on (i) the areas where the adverting is permitted, (ii) displaying advertising means, as well as specific rules for (i) placing firms, advertising panels and screens, (ii) using urban furnishings (infrastructure from the stops afferent to public transportation means, newspaper kiosks, etc.), as well as for (iii) advertising on public transportation vehicles.
- Within 60 days of the entry into force of Law 185 (i.e., by September 8, 2013), local authorities must ensure the development or, where appropriate, the updating of local regulations regarding the positioning of advertising, identifying sites located on their public and private property and make such regulations available to the public. Thereafter, within another 30-day period, public tenders are to be organized for the use of such advertising sites and owners of advertising means whose location does not meet the new conditions are to be forced to remove it.
- Fines ranging from RON 500 to 50,000 (i.e., approximately €110 - 11,000) may be levied for failure to comply with Law 185. The State Construction Inspectorate, as well as the local authorities and local police have the related enforcement attributions.
- Interim provisions: Advertising means authorized until July 8, 2013 can be maintained on the authorized sites until the expiry of advertising agreements in progress, but no later than January 1, 2014;
- Current contracts: The current agreements on advertising space will require amendments/alignment to Law 185. However, agreements valid for a period not exceeding 30 days from its date of entry into effect (i.e., July 8, 2013) remain in force until their expiry date.