Recent news of the upcoming formation of the National Consumer Protection Agency (NCPA) by the Government of India to tighten legislation against misleading ad/product claims has led to a ripple effect in the ad industry. afaqs! recently released a report on the mixed reactions by ad agency honchos, on whether the launch of the NCPA will end up causing more bureaucracy in the system, or whether it will serve to compensate for what several believe to be the 'incompetency' of the current self-regulatory mechanism for advertisement standards monitoring - the Advertising Standards Council of India.
However, the ASCI isn't taking too kindly to allegations/speculation about its supposed inefficiency in the legal implementation of its decisions against defaulting advertisers and ad agencies - something that has been a matter of debate for years.
To him, the upcoming launch of the NCPA clearly doesn't seem to reflect any failure on ASCI's part. "At ASCI, we will soon launch a national network that looks into ads all over India in a more extensive manner, as opposed to monitoring ads only in certain major pockets. That network creation is underway, and shall be rolled out soon. It should give us a better representation of the entire country, even more than what we are already doing," Venkat states.
Another ruse against ASCI is the 'lobbying' or protection of vested interests by a handful of large advertisers, who tend to get away with non-compliance - a factor that the industry feels the NCPA may not be a victim of. Venkat disagrees and nullifies that thought. He explains that big advertisers tend to comply with ASCI decisions. "On the contrary, it is virtually impossible in the current system to monitor the thousands of small players who advertise, and may not be sticking to prescribed norms in smaller markets, which is an area where our upcoming larger, national network investment will step in for closer monitoring," he says.
Furthermore, afaqs! has learnt through sources that the NCPA is likely to tilt more towards monitoring product-related aspects, including faulty products, packaging, claims etc, rather than restrict itself to advertising. If true, then this doesn't really put NCPA in the same league as ASCI. However, this is speculation at this point.
When asked specifically about ASCI's stand on NCPA's launch, Venkat says, "Whatever support the NCPA will require in terms of guidelines or framework, ASCI will be happy to help."
afaqs! tried to contact Pankaj Agrawala, joint secretary, Department of Information Technology, who is said to be looking into the launch of the NCPA, but Agrawala declined to comment on the matter. He also declined to give a date for the exact launch of the NCPA.