The laws of Vietnam are complex and new legislation is constantly being introduced. What follows is no more than an introductory overview that we hope will assist investors to decide which areas of law they will need to research further.

This summary is, necessarily, selective and is no substitute for detailed legal advice.

1. Decree No 194 CP issued by the Government on 31 December 94, together with Circular 3.7 of 1 June 1995 are the key legislative provisions and together set out the controls that apply.

2. All entities wishing to advertise must obtain a Licence from the Ministry of Culture, though if advertising is to take place only within the locality of the applicant's office, a permit from the local Cultural and Information service may be sufficient. However, licensing of advertisements relating to products imported into Vietnam must be done by the Ministry. A Licence once granted is valid for I year.

3. All non-Vietnamese entities wishing to advertise foreign goods must do so via a Vietnamese advertising agency holding a valid operating permit.

4. An import licence must have been obtained for all foreign goods advertised. The trademark or logo must be registered for use in Vietnam. A certificate of the quality of goods advertised requires to be produced. The body issuing such a certificate will vary depending upon the type of goods concerned.

5. Advertisements should be in Vietnamese though exemptions are made for foreign language publications, foreign TV and radio programmes and trademarks. If both Vietnamese and a foreign language are used the Vietnamese should have prominence.

6. The contents of advertisements are regulated and, amongst other matters, must be accurate, truthful and reflect the quality of the goods advertised as well as be clear and easily understood and in conformity with Vietnamese culture and lifestyle.

7. The categories of prohibited advertisements include:-

- Those making false claims in respect of the goods advertised or disparaging other persons and their goods.
- Those using the national flag, anthem or pictures of Vietnam's leaders, or which disclose national secrets.
- Those contrary to Vietnamese laws, customs, lifestyle and morality or which are harmful to human dignity.
- Those for banned items for example cigarettes, wine or pharmaceutical items for which a licence from the Ministry of Health has not yet been obtained.

8. The frequency of advertisements is regulated also.

A daily advertisement on radio or in newspapers must not run for more than 5 consecutive days. On radio it must not be broadcast more than 10 times each day. On TV, the maximum "run" for daily advertisements is 8 consecutive days, with a maximum number of daily broadcast of 5. After a break of 5 days, the same daily advertisement may resume again.

9. Not more than 10% of the space in a publication should be taken up with advertisements. On radio, TV, films and video cassettes this proportion is reduced to 5% of the entire programme.

Permission to advertise in excess of these limits may be applied for.

10. Outdoor advertisements may appear in the same place for no longer than one year. Their location requires the approval of the local Cultural and Information service. They must not affect traffic or fire safety or detract from the aesthetics of the landscape. They require to be licensed additionally by the Department of Transport Protection and, if large scale, will also need a permit from the Ministry of Construction.

11. All illuminated advertisements, or where free samples of goods are given, or where advertising accompanies an event, (eg a sporting event) require also the permission of the local Cultural and Information service.

12. Apart from the above restrictions as to placement, advertising is prohibited in a number of locations, including the following:-

- on the cover or first page of newspapers or magazines;
- integrated into radio or TV news programmes, with the exception of programmes from foreign stations;
- in the vicinity of State offices and reception areas, municipal squares, parks or gardens;
- in hospitals, colleges, museums temples, churches;
- near State notices or places containing pictures of leaders;
- hung across roads or waterways.

13. Excessively noisy advertisements are banned between 11 pm and 4 am.

14. Following the Circular of I June 1995, Vietnamese enterprises are permitted to co-operate with foreign advertising agencies by means of a Business Co-operation Contract for a maximum of five year. This is a departure from the situation prior to this date when joint ventures were permitted, though in practice very few licences had been granted.

NOTE: The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

If you would like further advice please contact: David Ellis, Johnson Stokes & Master, 16th Floor, Princes Building, 10 Chater Road, Hong Kong; Tel 2843 4226; Fax no. : 2845 9121. Alternatively do a text search "Johnson Stokes and Master" and "Business Monitor".