Advertising Compliance in Malaysia

The advertising industry in Malaysia is largely self-regulated in accordance with various laws, regulations, codes and guidelines. The Advertising Standards Authority plays an integral part of the local advertising framework as it administers the Malaysian Code of Advertising Practice which regulates printed and paid-for-space ads. Out-of-home (OOH) ads such as billboards fall under the jurisdiction of the respective state/local authorities while national TV and radio have their own advertising and censorship codes. Electronic ads including those communicated through the internet and on privately-owned TV and radio are regulated by the Content Code administered by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Content Forum.

General Advertising Principles

  1. Ads shall be legal, decent, honest and truthful, and should not contain anything that is false or misleading, for example, hidden fees, inaccurate claims or comparisons, or claims with contradictory disclaimers in the fine print.
  2. All claims whether direct or implied must be capable of objective substantiation and advertisers must hold documentary evidence to prove such claims when called upon.
  3. Disclaimers are useful to clarify ad claims but do not provide an automatic defence to false or misleading claims.
  4. Superlatives, obvious untruths or exaggerations are generally allowed provided that they do not create any false or misleading impression. This is however completely prohibited in certain industries such as the medical industry.
  5. Comparative advertising is generally allowed provided that: (a) points of comparison can be factually substantiated; (b) the basis of comparison is the same; (c) claims are not false or misleading; (d) such comparison does not confer artificial advantage to suggest a better bargain when it is not the case; and (e) it does not trespass upon the IP rights of any third party.
  6. Unavailable products should not be advertised if the advertiser does not believe he can meet any demand created by the advertising. Bait advertising is thus not allowed.
  7. Testimonials, User-Reviews or endorsements must be genuine and related to the personal experience of the person giving it over a reasonable period of time.
  8. Third-party content and intellectual property as well as the personal data of an individual must not be used without prior consent, licence or other authorisation.
  9. Women must never be portrayed as sex objects.
  10. The use of children is not encouraged unless the advertised product is relevant and they should never be depicted in an unsafe manner.

Prohibitions that are uniquely Malaysian

Malaysia is a conservative nation and with Islam being the official religion of the country, advertisers must be careful not to include elements that are regarded forbidden under Islamic laws. Here are some elements that should be avoided:

  • • Cigarette, tobacco and its accessories
  • • Alcohol drinks & hard liquor
  • • Occult and fortune tellers
  • • Clothing with inappropriate words or symbols
  • • Sexually explicit, indecent or immoral content such as kissing and immodest clothing
  • • Pornography
  • • LGBT and cross-dressing elements
  • • Gambling
  • • Marriage agencies and friendship clubs
  • • Pig, pork products and its derivatives
  • • Disco scenes
  • • Places of worship and other religious symbols or content
  • • Fire-crackers
  • • Slimming products