spot misleading advertisements

Consumer Awareness

Good To Know : How To Spot A Misleading Advertisement?

Pavan Manikanta Kumar

August 30th, 2016


Advertisements also called Ads, viewed via various media such as newspapers, magazines, television, radio, e-mail, new media such as blogs, websites or text messages.

Advertising means how a company encourages people to buy their products, services or ideas.

Years ago when there was no technology, people advertised orally. Today publicity through print, online, and television media are the expensive forms of advertising. Perhaps, the most widespread are the combination of oral and written publicity which is found in modern television. The Internet and online media, newspapers, cinema slides, wall hoardings, banners, radio, and television are the various mediums of advertising. These methods compete in the field of modern advertisement.

A lot of people watch ads and get convinced enough to buy the products, but not everyone can spot misleading ads. Some advertisers mislead the viewer with the content.  The advertising company must be aware that there’s not only a particular age group watching their commercials, but the entire public does. Hence the onus lies on the advertising company to make relevant advertisements which can caters to all types of audiences without impacting the society negatively.

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) (1985) has adopted a Code for Self-Regulation in Advertising. It is a commitment to honest advertising and fair competition in the marketplace. It stands for the protection of the legitimate interests of consumers and all concerned with Advertising – Advertisers, Media, Advertising Agencies and others who help in the creation or placement of advertisements.


Guidelines For Advertisement Makers.

These rules of conduct are expected from the advertisers

1Honest Representations :Advertisements must be truthful. All descriptions, claims, and comparisons which relate to matters of objectively ascertainable fact should be capable of substantiation. Advertisements shall not be so framed as to abuse the trust of consumers or exploit their lack of experience or knowledge.

For example, Products shall not be described as `free’ where there is any direct cost to the consumer other than the actual cost of any delivery, freight, or postage.

2Non-Offensive to Public: Advertisements should not contain indecent, vulgar, especially in the depiction of women, or nothing which is generally considered obscene and grave and widespread offense.

3Against Harmful Products/Situations should not use indiscriminately for the promotion of products, hazardous or harmful to society or to individuals particularly minors, to a degree unacceptable to society at large. No advertisement shall be permitted which:

  • Tends to incite people to crime or to promote disorder and violence or intolerance
  • Derides any race, caste, color, creed, gender or nationality.
  • Presents criminality as desirable or directly or indirectly encourages people – particularly minors – to emulate it or conveys the modus operandi of any crime.
  • Adversely affects friendly relations with a foreign State.

4Fair in Competition :Advertisements containing comparisons with other manufacturers or suppliers or with other products including those where a competitor is named, are permissible in the interests of vigorous competition and public enlightenment, provided

  • Not derogatory to competition.
  • No plagiarism.

When Does an Advertisement Becomes “Misleading”?

Earlier, one saw advertisements only in the print media, besides other conventional media such as pamphlets and hoarding, today you can see them on television, influencing a larger number of people and impacting even the illiterate. The advertisements over TV reach even the remotest corner of the country. Hence the impact of the visuals on the television screen is far greater than the newspapers.

Following or someone of the examples of misleading ads.

  • When an edible oil advertisement gives you the impression that you are free of heart problems so long as you are using that particular oil, then it is misrepresenting facts.
  • When an advertisement of a water purifier that filters only bacteria (and not viruses) claims that it gives 100 percent safe water, then it is a false statement.
  • If an advertisement for a face cream claims that it removes dark spots on the face and even prevents them from coming back, the manufacturer should be able to prove this. Or else, it is a deceptive advertisement.
  • If a retailer claims that he is offering a special discount on his goods as part of a festival celebration, while he is actually using the festival as an excuse to get rid of old and outdated goods, then he is deceiving consumers.

Other Laws and Regulations That Prohibit Misleading Advertisements

1The Drugs and Magic Remedies Act, 1954: prohibits four kinds of advertisements about drugs and magical cures:

  • inducing miscarriage or preventing conception in women
  • improving or maintaining the capacity for sexual pleasure
  • correction of menstrual disorders
  • curing, diagnosing or preventing any disease or condition mentioned in an included schedule:



2The Cable Television Network Regulation Act: mandates that all advertisements transmitted through the cable television network adhere to the Advertising Code formulated under it.

3Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006: Thgonorrhoeavely new law has a provision to deal with false and misleading advertisements about food.

4Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940: “Diseases which a drug may not purport to prevent or cure”-

  • No drug may claim to prevent or cure or may convey to the intending user thereof any idea that it may prevent or cure one or more of the diseases or ailments specified.
  • No drug claim to procure or assist to or may convey to the intending user thereof any idea of miscarriage in women.


Disclaimer: *This information is subject to periodic government policy/process change. Kindly contact the concerned department to cross check for recent updates, if any.


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