Advertising Law in Lebanon

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Advertising Law in Lebanon

INTRODUCTION


Advertising is part of daily life, from street posters, print ads, and online campaigns to indirect advertising such as promotional events. A variety of laws dictate what may or may not be advertised or marketed and in which ways. Among these laws are the Penal Code, the Publications Law, the Consumer Protection Law, the Pharmacists Order Regulation, and the Bar Association Regulation.

Government ministries, such as the Ministry of Information and the Ministry of the Interior, have oversight of these laws and are responsible for enforcement. In particular, all advertisements relating to commercial products or services must be submitted for approval before the Ministry of Economy and Trade five days prior to the running of the advertisement.
 

The main laws which govern advertising content are listed here according to their area of focus:

 

Regulation and Licensing
Regulation of advertisements and licensing thereof are governed by Decree Number 8861 (تنظيمالاعلانات والترخيس بها).
 

Broadcast Media
Radio and television broadcasting are governed by Law No 382 (البث التلفزيوني والإذاعي)
 

Accuracy
The accuracy of commercial advertisements is monitored by Decision No 88 (مراقبة صحة الاعلاناتالتجاري).
 

Print Media
Publications are monitored by Decree No 1 (فرض رقابة على المطبوعات).
 

Consumer Protection
The Consumer Protection Law (قانون حماية المستهلك) regulates advertisements and packaging to ensure that consumers are properly informed about goods and services.
 
 

I - PRODUCTS AND SERVICES BANNED FROM ADVERTISING


Doctors
The Medical Profession Regulation, Section 24, prohibits doctors from advertising their services except in announcements in a hospital or at their own clinics identifying the doctor’s name and specialization.
 

Gaming
Banned from advertisement by Law No 1 of 1961. The law prohibits the advertisement any type of gaming that involves the placement of a bet in the form of a sum of money. However, advertisement of lotteries is legal; and see Sweepstakes below.
 

Legal Services
Pursuant to the Beirut Bar Association Regulation, Section 86, attorneys who are members of the Bar may not advertise their services or divulge the identity of any of their clients. All members of the Bar Association are attorneys, moreover the practice of law is restricted to those who are members of the Bar.

The Beirut Bar Association governs all attorneys across the country, with the exception of the Tripoli Bar Association, which governs the North of Lebanon. The same rules, however, apply to the Tripoli Bar Association.
 

Occult (Psychic) Services
The Penal Code, Section 768, prohibits all occult activities, making specific mention of practices related to “the spirits, hypnosis, palm reading, tarot reading, and anything that deals with the occult.” No illegal activities may be advertised.
 

Political Candidates
Under Decision No. 183, Section 1, no political candidate may receive foreign funds toward campaigning or advertising. Thus foreign advertising of political candidates is forbidden in Lebanon. In essence, no political advertising is permitted. In practice this law is not always enforced.
 

Prescription Drugs
The Pharmacy Code, Section 47, prohibits the advertising of prescription pharmaceutical products, since it is a matter which relates to public health and the consumer must be protected from the competition available through possible advertisement which may lead the consumer to make grave errors in judgment.
 

Products Related to Sexuality
The Pharmacy Code, Section 47, prohibits any advertising which goes against public morals. This has been interpreted as a ban on products related to sexuality, as public discussion of sexuality is still a taboo in Lebanese society.The Minister of Information and the General Security Forces are responsible for enforcement of this law.
 

Religion
Section 9 of the Constitution allows for the freedom of religious thought and practice and establishes that the state is in charge of "guaranteeing the respect of the religious interests and personal status of all the people regardless of their creed." In order to secure the freedom of worship for all religions, this section has been strictly interpreted as a prohibition on advertising of religious issues.
 

Sexual Services
Prohibited by the Publications Law of 1948, Section 31, Clause 8, and Section 12, Clause 5. Daily newspapers, magazines, and any other publications may not publish any writing or images which go against public morals. This prohibition is interpreted as including sexual services, which are forbidden under Lebanese Laws. Publication violating these regulations may be subject to penalties under the Penal Code, clauses 526 and 209.
 

Tobacco Products
Law No. 174 of 2011, Section 9, which entered into force in September 2012, prohibits advertising or promotion of tobacco products and sponsorship by tobacco companies. The ban is part of a government policy to minimize the use of tobacco.

 

II - REGULATIONS RELATED TO PRODUCT AND SERVICE ADVERTISING


Laws in different sectors have certain restrictions relating to specific products or services. However, for permitted products, there is no legislation which regulates the manner in which advertising should be done.
 

Alcohol (Beer, Wine, and Spirits)
No specific restrictions or regulations
 

Firearms, Weapons, and Ammunition
Written approval from the Ministry of Defense is required in order to advertise and sell firearms, weapons, and ammunition.
 

Food
The Consumer Protection Law provides restrictions concerning false information on food labels. Specific restrictions on advertisements for infant milk are provided in Law 47 dated 11/12/2008.
 

Gaming
Concerning advertisements of most games based on chance, see Products and Services Banned From Advertising. However no restrictions apply to advertising of lotteries, which are exclusively run by the State.
 

Legal Services
See Products and Services Banned From Advertising.
 

Medical Devices
No specific restrictions
 

Medical Services
See "Doctors" under Products and Services Banned From Advertising.
 

Nonprofit Fundraising
No specific restrictions
 

Nutritional Supplements
Decree No. 5518 dated December 14, 2010 provides that written approval from the Ministry of Public Health is required to advertise nutritional supplements.
 

Occult (“Psychic”) Services
See Products and Services Banned From Advertising.
 

Pharmaceuticals
Advertisements for over-the-counter medications are governed by the Prohibition of Misleading Advertisements and Publicity in the Marketing of Over the Counter Medication. Concerning prescription medications, see Products and Services Banned From Advertising.
 

Political Advertising
See Products and Services Banned From Advertising.
 

Products Related to Sexuality
See Products and Services Banned From Advertising.
 

Religion
See Products and Services Banned From Advertising.
 

Sex (Adult) Services
See Products and Services Banned From Advertising.
 

Tobacco Products 
See Products and Services Banned From Advertising.
 

Toys
No specific restrictions
 


 

III - REGULATIONS RELATED TO ADVERTISING METHODOLOGY


Regulation of advertising methodology is still in its nascent stages in Lebanon. One important element covered by the Consumer Protection Law is false or misleading advertising.

Certain industry best practices do exist, such as restrictions on comparative advertising. This restriction is adhered to by all advertising agencies in Lebanon.
 

Advertising to Children
No specific restrictions
 

Celebrity Endorsements
No current restrictions. However, reporters and news broadcasters are not allowed to appear in advertisements.
 

Comparative Advertising
Comparative advertising is not acceptable in Lebanon. However, as there is no actual legislation to that effect, it is a customary practice in the industry.
 

Contests 
No specific restrictions on games of skill. Concerning games of chance, see Products and Services Banned From Advertising.
 

Deceptive, False, or Misleading Advertising
The Consumer Protection Law, as well as Decree No. 659 of 2005, Section 4 and Section 11, stipulate that brand owners must advertise information that is true and not misleading. False advertising specifically includes misrepresentation of any of the following:

  • Composition of a product
    • The nature of a service
    • The place agreed upon for the offering of the service
    • A person's degrees or distinctions
    • A specific law deals also with over-the-counter medication; see Pharmaceuticals.


Disguised Ads and Advertorials
No specific restrictions
 

Free Gifts/Samples
Free gifts and samples are accepted in Lebanon with some exceptions depending on the type of products; for example, per the new tobacco law, distribution of free samples of cigarettes or other tobacco products is prohibited.
 

Limits to Free Speech
No restrictions unless it contains comparative advertising or defamation or is libelous.
 

Length of Commercial, Volume, and Similar Restrictions
No restrictions except for political campaigns which must distribute their advertising campaign across networks. There is no legally mentioned length for political ads, but each television station must specify the air time for such campaigns during a day.
 

Rights of Privacy
If a person is depicted in an advertisement, that person’s prior written approval from the person must be obtained.
 

Product Demonstrations
No current restrictions unless it is proved to be false or misleading.
 

Regional Public and/or Community Standards
No specific restrictions
 

Rebates
Rebates are regulated under Decision No. 87 dated March 1, 1972, which dictates that notice should be sent to the Ministry of Economy and Trade before offering rebates.
 

Sex in Advertising
Prohibited.
 

Sponsorships
Sponsorships are accepted in Lebanon but depend on the type of products (for example, per the new tobacco law, sponsorship by tobacco companies is prohibited). It is the practice that industries which are prohibited from advertising are prohibited from sponsoring, especially when the event sponsored is outside their industry.
 

Subliminal Advertising
No specific restrictions
 

Sweepstakes Offers
Prior written approval from the national lottery is required to advertise a sweepstakes or to hold one.
 

Telemarketing
No specific restrictions
 

Tie-In Offers
No restrictions, however the advertiser should inform the Ministry of Economy and Trade one week before advertising tie-in offers.
 

Use of a Public Person's Image or Name
In order to use a public person’s image or name, the advertiser must obtain prior written approval from the person.
 

Use of Children in Advertising
No specific restrictions
 

Use of Foreign Language in Advertising
No specific restrictions
 

Use of Models as Doctors, Nurses, Lawyers, or other Professionals
The use of models in advertising as doctors, nurses, lawyers, or other professionals is governed and in most cases banned by the regulations of these professions, since it is considered misrepresentation, which is banned by the Penal Code.
 

Violence in Advertising
No restrictions unless it is against public morals. There are no written rules concerning violence in advertising, but in practice the industry uses guidelines similar to those used in the television rating system.

 

IV - REGULATIONS RELATED TO MEDIA CHANNELS


Generally, restrictions related to media channels concern advertisements which may be offensive to public morals or may deceive the consumer. There are, however, no specific government or non-government agencies which monitor advertisements, but the Ministry of Interior does have the authority to interfere in cases which are brought to its attention and which contravene these laws.

Moreover, Decision No 88 of 1975 for the Monitoring of Accuracy of Commercial Advertisements does require that advertisements to be broadcast or in print to be submitted to the Consumer Protection Department of the Ministry of Economy and Trade five days prior to broadcast or print for notification purposes. However, in practice this rule is rarely followed.
 

Billboard Advertising
Decree No. 8861 dated July 25, 1996 regulates the location of billboard advertisements.
 

Digital Media Advertising
There are no regulations specific to digital media advertising. However, Decree No. 8861 (issued July 25, 1996), Regulation of Advertisement and their Official Authorization, applies to all types of advertising media with the exception of those covered by specific legislation such as radio, television, and print magazines. The decree defines what is meant by advertisement, and stipulates that in all advertisements consideration should be given to the preservation of the national pride and the general peace in terms of values, environment, and the natural landscape, as well as heritage and historical sites.
 

Direct Mail Advertising
No specific restrictions
 

Email Advertising (Spam)
No specific restrictions
 

Newspaper Advertising
Regulated by Decree No. 8861 (issued on July 25, 1996). See description at Digital Media Advertising.
 

Periodical Advertising
Regulated by the Publication Code, Decree No. 1 (dated January 1, 1977). Article 12 prohibits any publication which goes against public morals.
 

Radio Advertising
Law No. 382, issued November 4, 1994, regulates radio advertisements.
 

Social Media Advertising
No specific restrictions
 

Telemarketing
No specific restrictions
 

Television Advertising
There are restrictions on advertisements which deceive the consumer and may cause harm to consumers’ health and well-being, or which go against public morals. One law applicable to television advertising is Decree No. 7997 issued on February 22, 1996, in Chapter 4 on advertisements.

Restrictions on television advertising include:
 

  • Advertisements which may mislead the consumer or may harm the public health and morals are prohibited
    • Advertisements must be clear as to their nature and must be easily differentiated from the regular program. A television break is required between the program and the ads
    • Persons such as news anchors, or program anchors (mainly in political subjects) are prohibited from appearing in advertisements
    • An advertisement may be broadcast between two television programs; or within one television program as long as it does not interrupt the flow of idea of the program
    • Advertising related to programs with sensitive content, including thrillers and programs containing sexuality, may not be broadcast prior to 9:30pm
    • Advertising of events is subject to permission

 


V - REGULATORY AGENCIES


Ministry of Economy and Trade in Lebanon| وزارة الاقتصاد والتجارة اللبنانية 
Riad Al Soleh Street, Azarieh Building, 5th Floor
Beirut, Lebanon
Tel: [961] (1) 982 360
Web: www.economy.gov.lb
Regulates advertising; responsible for protecting the customer by controlling and surveying the products in markets. All advertisements relating to commercial products or services must be submitted for approval before the Ministry of Economy and Trade five days prior to the running of the advertisement [Decision No 88 Issued on 22 of April 1975]


Directorate General of Public Security | المديرية العامّة للأمن العام اللبناني
Adliyyeh – Sami Al Soleh Street
Beirut, Lebanon
Tel: [961] (1) 386 810
Fax: [961] (1) 394 302
Web: www.general-security.gov.lb, www.info@economy.gov.lb
Responsible for surveillance of audiovisual broadcasting means and movie recording cassettes. Prepares studies related to the organization of the surveillance acts (which include the viewing of advertisements and examining of print work) of printed publications and recordings, as well as organizing surveillance acts on the press and media censorship. Ensures proper implementation of the laws and rules related to the affairs of censorship and media.


Ministry of Interior and Municipalities | وزارة الداخلية والبلديات اللبنانية
Hamra – Sanai3
Beirut, Lebanon
Email: info@moim.gov.lb
Tel: [961] (1) 754 200
Fax: [961] (1) 750084
Web: www.moim.gov.lb
Among other things, has the authority to take action against any ad which is deemed to go against public morals, or deceives the consumer.
 

Order of Pharmacists of Lebanon | نقابة صيادلة لبنان
Adliyyeh – Kornish Al Nahr
Beirut, Lebanon
Email: opl@opl.org.lb
Tel: [961] (1) 611 081
Fax: [961] (1) 425 247
Web: www.opl.org.lb
Among other things, responsible for overseeing that the ban on the advertisement of pharmaceuticals is respected.


Beirut Bar Association | نقابة المحامين في بيروت
Museum Street, near the Court House
Beirut, Lebanon
Email: info@bba.org.lb
Tel: [961] (1) 422204
Fax: [961] (1) 427980
Web: www.bba.org.lb
Among many other things, ensures that member lawyers do not engage in any advertisement activities of their services.


 

VI - KEY LAWS AND REGULATIONS

 

تنظيم الاعلانات والترخيس بها
المديرية العامّة للأمن العام اللبناني
Regulation of Advertisements and Licensing Thereof
Directorate General of Public Security

Decree Number 8861 Issued on the 25th of July 1996
This decree law regulates all types of advertisements with the exception of radio, television, and magazine advertisements, which are regulated under a specific law. The law enumerates what is meant by advertisement, and stipulates that in all advertisements consideration should be given to the preservation of the national pride and the general peace in terms of values, environment, and the natural landscape, as well as heritage and historical sites.
 

منع نشر الاعلانات والدعاية المضللة للجمهور في ترويج المستحضرات الطبية الجاهزة
وزارة الصحة العامة
Prohibition of Misleading Advertisements and Publicity in the Marketing of Over the Counter Medication
Ministry of Public Health

Decision No 127 Issued on the 10th of May 1962
This Decision is specific to the over the counter medications and is an absolute prohibition of placing misleading advertisements' and publicity in over the counter medication.
 

البث التلفزيوني والإذاعي
وزارة الاعلام
المديرية العامّة للأمن العام اللبناني
Radio and Television Broadcasting
Ministry of Information
Directorate General of Public Security

Law No 382 Issued on the 4th of November 1994
Requires television and radio broadcasters not to broadcast any advertisement which is misleading to the consumer, can cause harm to the consumer’s safety and interests, and which go against public order.
 

مراقبة صحة الاعلانات التجارية
وزارة الاقتصاد والتجارة
Monitoring of the Accuracy of Commercial Advertisements
Ministry of Economy and Trade, Consumer Protection Department

Decision No 88 Issued on 22 April 1975
All advertisements pertaining to commercial products or services must be sent for approval to the Ministry of Economy and Trade 5 days prior to it being broadcast. This law regulates conditions of the ads, which must include information regarding the nature of the goods, their constituent elements, and their price.
 

فرض رقابة على المطبوعات
المديرية العامّة للأمن العام اللبناني
Monitoring of Publications
Directorate General of Public Security

Decree No 1 Issued on 1/1/1977
Places conditions upon the publication industry, with the chief aim of protecting public morals
 

 قانون العقوبات
المديرية العامّة للأمن العام اللبناني
Penal Code
Directorate General of Public Security

Decree No 340 Issued on 1/3/1943
The penal code places sanctions on prohibited activities, which may not be advertised, such as occult services or sexual advertisements.
 

قانون حماية المستهلك
وزارة الاقتصاد والتجارة
Consumer Protection Law
Ministry of Economy and Trade, Consumer Protection Department

Law No 659 Issued on 4/2/2005
Enacted to ensure that consumers are at all times fully aware of the nature of products and that they are not misled or deceived in advertisements and packaging.

 

VII - ADVERTISING PRE-CLEARANCE AGENCIES


Decision No 8 of 22 April 1975 requires advertisements for commercial products and services to be submitted for approval to the Ministry of Economy and Trade within five days prior to the placement of the advertisements.
 

Trends 

The Lebanese advertising and marketing arena is governed by many individual legislations, some of which have been applied to advertising although not meant as such initially.

As digital advertising becomes more common, it is to be expected that legislators will tackle issues specifically related to this medium. However, there is currently no new legislation pending.

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