The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) found more than 500 instances of advertisements in electronic media that were making misleading, false, and unsubstantiated claims. ASCI also found that 25 out of 33 advertisements of Patanjali Ayurved violated the ASCI code.
Misleading advertisements are a common thing these days in both print & electronic media. Even the Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA), Government of India has information on a large number of instances of misleading advertisements in various media. The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), a voluntary self-regulatory body of Advertisement Industry has been appointed by the government as their executive arm to process complaints received about misleading advertisements. As per information shared by the government in the Lok Sabha, between 2013 and 2016, ASCI found more than 500 instances of advertisements in electronic media that were making misleading, false and unsubstantiated claims. Between April 2015 and July 2016, complaints have been received against 33 advertisements of Patanjali Ayurved Limited out of which 25 were found to be violating the ASCI code.
How are Misleading Advertisements dealt?
Section 2 (1) (r) of the existing Consumer Protection Act 1986 states that the practice of making any statement, whether orally or in writing or by visible representation which falsely represents that the goods are of a particular standard, quality, quantity, grade, composition style or model; falsely represents that the services are of a particular standard, quality or grade, falls under unfair trade practices.
A consumer can make a complaint against unfair trade practice in a Consumer Forum established under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. If the complaint is upheld by a Consumer Forum, it can order for removal of the defect pointed out, replacing the goods with new goods free from any defect, issuance of corrective advertisement to neutralize the effect of misleading advertisement at the cost of the party responsible for issuing such misleading advertisement, etc.
The DoCA has recently launched a portal to enable consumers to register Grievances Against Misleading Advertisements (GAMA). After preliminary scrutiny of the grievances registered on the portal, the grievances are forwarded to the State Government concerned or the respective Central Regulator based on the subject matter. Between March 2015 and March 2016, 1046 complaints have been received through the GAMA portal.
What is ASCI then?
The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) is a voluntary self-regulatory body of Advertisement Industry. It self-regulates advertising content to monitor and decide on complaints against advertisements making misleading, false and unsubstantiated claims. Rule 7(9) of the Advertising Code states that no Advertisement which violate the code for self-regulation in advertising as adopted by ASCI , shall be carried in the cable service. In 2015, the government appointed ASCI as its executive arm to process complaints received on the GAMA portal about misleading advertisements. ASCI also receives direct complaints from citizens.
Between 2013 and 2016, a total of 525 advertisements in electronic media were found to be making misleading, false and unsubstantiated claims by ASCI.
25 advertisements of Patanjali were found to be violating ASCI code
As per data shared by the government in the Lok Sabha, complaints have been received against 33 advertisements of Patanjali Ayurved Limited during April 2015 and July 2016, appearing in various media such as TV, Print and Product packaging and in various sectors such as Food and Beverages, Personal care, Health care etc.
A total 17 advertisements out of 21 advertisements complained against, were found to be in violation of ASCI code for self-regulation of advertising content while the remaining four product packaging claims were not found to be in violation of ASCI Code.
Six (6) product packaging communications out of 8 complaints were considered to be in violation of ASCI code. Two (2) TV advertisements out of 4 complaints were considered to be in violation of ASCI code. In all, 25 out of the 33 advertisements were found to be violating ASCI code.
For instance, one of the advertisements about Patanjali Dant Kanti was found to be misleading since there was no scientific data to prove the claims.
The advertisements of various other companies like Vodafone, Idea, Airtel, Hero Motocorp, Tata Motors, Uber, Loreal, Proctor & Gamble, Hindustan Unilever etc were also found to be violating the ASCI code. As per ASCI data, more than 80% of the advertisers have either withdrawn or modified their ad accordingly after directions from ASCI.