Cambodia’s Ministry of Health (MOH) has issued a notification reminding advertisers of health products and cosmetics in the country to obtain the required advertising approvals from the MOH. Issued on April 21, 2023, MOH Notification Letter No. 2198 on the Unauthorized Advertising of Modern Medicines, Traditional Medicines, Health Supplements, Medical Devices, and Health Supporting Products confirms that the MOH is aware of unauthorized advertising taking place in Cambodia, and signals its intention to increase enforcement efforts.
It is therefore important for advertisers not yet in possession of the necessary approval to obtain the required advertising authorizations before marketing their health products in Cambodia.
Advertising Framework for Health Products in Cambodia
To legally advertise a health product in Cambodia, it must first be registered with the MOH (except for cosmetics, which only require notification). Only then can advertising approval be sought from the MOH, which will review the content of the proposed advertisement for compliance with Cambodian law. Approval is subject to a time limit, depending on the manner of advertising.
All forms of advertising are covered under the MOH’s purview, including online, offline, business-to-consumer (B2C), business-to-business (B2B), promotion to healthcare professionals, and any other form of advertising.
Key regulations prescribing general advertising rules are the Law on Consumer Protection, the Law on E-commerce, and the Sub-Decree on the Management of Commercial Advertising of Products and Services. However, product-specific regulations may also apply, depending on the type of product. For example, certain products may be subject to the regulation that sets rules for trading cosmetics in Cambodia, the (amended) Law on the Management of Pharmaceuticals, or others. Usually, product-specific regulations apply first, with the general product advertising rules being applied in addition wherever they do not conflict with the product-specific regulations.
A key issue found among both general and product-specific rules is the prohibition on exaggerating the qualities of a health product, such as medical qualities or other suggestions of a positive health effect. Violating this prohibition substantially increases the risk of enforcement actions and the severity of the penalties.
A warning is usually the first step in enforcement, but the MOH has the power to withdraw a product registration for violating advertising rules, which will make the product illegal to trade in Cambodia. Continuing to trade under a withdrawn registration triggers more serious legal repercussions. This gives the MOH an indirect but powerful tool for enforcing against unauthorized advertising.
MOH inspection officers may only enforce the product-specific regulations, while the consumer protection authority—the Consumer Protection, Competition, and Fraud Repression Directorate-General (CCF)—can take action against noncompliant advertising based on the general rules. The CCF and MOH may decide to cooperate in their enforcement efforts, which has happened more often in recent months.
For more information on advertising compliance for health products in Cambodia, please contact David Mol at [email protected].