Advertising & Marketing Law in Uganda

Uganda lacks specific laws to govern the advertising business. Regulation of advertising is provided in sections of several laws.

Among these are the following:
 Media-related laws that compel the Media Council to use the Press and Journalist's Act to regulate advertisers.

 The Kampala City Authority, mandated with regulating activities of advertisers in line with the standards of the city

 The Physical Planning Act of 2010, which clearly stipulates what may be erected on a
plot of land

 The Public Health Act, Cap. 281 Section 51, concerning advertising of cures for venereal disease

 The Food and Drugs Act, Cap. 278, prescribing proper preparation, offering, labeling, and advertisement of food and creating offenses for violations

 Penal Code sections on gaming, trademarks, obscene publications, prostitution, incitement to violence, and actions intended to wound religious feelings

Self Regulation
In addition to these laws, self-regulatory codes apply in specific industries. The Radio Advertising Clearance Centre (RACC) decides whether individual advertisements meet the Radio Advertising Standards Code. Advertisements in print media are expected to comply with the Professional Code of Ethics for Journalists. Product-specific laws also apply to advertising of certain items, including pharmaceuticals and alcoholic beverages.

Products and Services Banned from Advertising

Medical Services
The Uganda Medical & Dental Practitioners Council Code of Professional Ethics, Section 12, prohibits medical practitioners from advertising their services in an unprofessional manner. In effect, the law amounts to a ban on touting or canvassing for patients in any manner whatsoever. Health practitioners are limited to publicizing their name and registered professional category on their letterhead stationery, business cards, and other means for informational purposes.

Legal Services
The Advocate Act, Cap. 267, prohibits advocates from advertising their professional services. It is legal and ethical for an attorney to advertise, but if that advert is false, deceptive, or misleading then it amounts to professional misconduct.

Treatment for Venereal diseases
Public Health Act Cap. 281, Section 51, prohibits any advertisement or statement intended to promote the sale of any medicine, appliance, or article for the alleviation or cure of any venereal disease or disease affecting the generative organs or functions or of sexual impotence, or infirmity arising from or relating to sexual intercourse.

Regulations related to product and Service Advertising

Alcoholic Beverages
The Liquor Act, Cap. 93 regulates the manufacture and sale of liquor and provides for licensing of traders; sale of permits; and premises for the manufacture and sale of liquor. The act prohibits all forms of alcohol advertising, promotion, and sponsorship through means that are false, misleading, or deceptive or likely to create an erroneous impression about the characteristics, health effects, or hazards of alcohol. Appropriate health warnings or messages must accompany all alcohol advertising.

The use of direct or indirect incentives that encourage the purchase of alcohol products (sales promotion) is prohibited.
Enforcement of the act is through the Alcohol Licensing Board (ALB), a body established by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives pursuant to the Liquor Act. The ALB supervises and advises on production, packaging, and marketing of alcoholic beverages. The Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) determines, formulates, and enforces standards for commodities for sale to the public in Uganda. It carries out tests of conformity with the standard specifications in order to protect the public against harmful and dangerous products. These include alcoholic beverages for consumption in Uganda. Should an alcoholic beverage not meet the standards, its sale as well as its advertising would be prohibited.

Firearms, Weapons and Ammunition
Firearms Act Cap. 299 prohibits any dealing in firearms without a firearm certificate or without the dealer being registered under the act as firearms dealer.

The Food and Drugs Act Cap. 278 prohibits false labeling or advertisement of food or drugs. The act also prohibits the preparation, offering, labeling, advertisement, possession, and sale of injurious foods and adulterated drugs. However, the penalties provided for contravention of this provision are too small to provide a real deterrent; until they are revised upwards, the act will remain ineffectual.

The Gaming and Pool Betting (Control and Taxation) Act prohibits advertising of unauthorized gaming and betting pools. Unauthorized gaming includes, first of all, illegal gaming, defined by the Penal Code as any game of chance the chances of which are not alike favorable to all the players, including the banker or other person or persons by whom the game is managed, or against whom the other players stake, play or bet.

Authorized gaming and betting pools may be advertised by persons holding a promoter’s or promoter’s agent’s license issued by the Treasury.

Legal Services
The Advocate Act prohibits advocates from advertising themselves in a way that is deceptive, misleading, or false.

Medical Devices
No specific restriction

Medical Services
Regulations prohibit medical practitioners from advertising themselves in a way that is misleading, deceptive or false.

Nonprofit Fundraising
No specific restriction

Nutritional Supplements
The Food and Drugs Act prohibits any a label or advertisement which is calculated to mislead as to the nutritional or dietary value of any food.

Occult (“Psychic”) Services
The Penal Code makes it a misdemeanor for a person to tell fortunes for profit or to pretend to be able to find lost or stolen items through use of occult knowledge.

The Pharmacy Drugs Act prohibits imitating or copying labels, trademarks, and other signs, symbols, or their products; it also prohibits advertising or display of materials used in a pharmacy which council (the governing body of the society) considers undignified in style or content. Such advertising or display is considered as professional misconduct.

Political Advertising
The Presidential Elections Act prohibits a candidate from publishing information, whether written, spoken, or by song, in relation to the personal character of a candidate, which is a false statement which he or she believes to be false. The act also specifically bans the publication of false statements as to the illness, death, or withdrawal of a candidate.

Products Related to Sexuality
No specific restrictions are in place concerning contraceptives, sex aids, or other sexuality related products other than pornography.

Section 166 of the Penal Code Act, Cap. 120 prohibits trafficking in obscene publications. However, a new law, the Anti-Pornography Bill 2011, which is before parliament as of the time of writing this article, is intended to repeal and replace Section 166 with a comprehensive piece of legislation prohibiting pornography in all its various forms.

There is no current restriction on the advertising of religion per se. The Penal Code prohibits intentionally wounding the religious feelings of another person.

Sex (Adult) Services
The Penal Code Act, Cap. 120 prohibits prostitution, thus advertising of prostitution is also illegal.

Tobacco Products
There has been a need for a comprehensive law implementing the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), to which Uganda became a party in 2007. The Tobacco Control Bill 2011, which passed the parliament in 2012, provides new legislation regulating the manufacture, sale, public advertising, distribution, and consumption of tobacco products in Uganda.

Health Warnings
Under the new requirements issued by the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), the new health warning on cigarette packets should read, “Cigarette Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Diseases and Death.” The warning should have a Swahili translation that reads, “Uvutaji Wa Sigara Husababisha Saratani ya Mapafu, Magonjwa ya Moto na Kifo.” Effective 1st September 2010, it became illegal to manufacture or import tobacco products into Uganda that do not bear these requirements, but the warning was printed in a small font easily missed by potential smokers. The new warning must cover 30 percent of the packet and be displayed in bold print. Also, the cigarette packet should indicate the number of cigarettes contained, including the tar, nicotine, and carbon monoxide content as well as the name and address of the manufacturer.

No specific restriction

Regulations Related to Advertising Methodology

Advertising to Children
No specific restriction

Celebrity Endorsements
No specific restriction

Comparative Advertising
Uganda has no specific competition law; our nearest relevant laws are modeled on the British collection of laws relating to competition. Under the context of our laws, unfair competition does not refer to the economic harms caused by dominant business forms or monopolies which are considered under the antitrust legislation of developed countries. The most familiar example of unfair competition considered under the trust in this regard is trademark infringement, which is regulated under the Trade Mark Act.

No specific restriction

Deceptive, False, or Misleading Advertising
The Consumer Protection Act, Clause 11, prohibits bait or false advertisement, while Clause 12 prevents misleading advertisement as to the grade quality or characteristics of the product.

Mr. Busiku Peter is an advocate, a commissioner for oaths and a notary public. He holds Bachelor of Laws (Hons.) degree of Makerere University, a Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from Law Development Centre, a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from Makerere University, MBA from East and Southern African Management Institute (ESAMI) among other qualifications including BA (Hons) from Makerere University (1996) and a Post Graduate Diploma in Media Management and Journalism from Uganda Management Institute.

Copyright Angualia Busiku & Co. Advocates
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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