The Advertising Standard Council of India (ASCI) has allowed consumers to report misleading advertisements through WhatsApp. Consumers can share the objectionable advertisement to +91 77-100-12345. The number went live on March 10, 2016, with the ASCI Board of Governors lodging Suo Moto complaints using this number. The development comes after the self-regulatory industry body launched an app last year for this purpose.
Now, with the new WhatsApp number, consumers can send pictures of print ads, hoardings, packaging or screenshots of websites, and links of YouTube videos. The ASCI team would scrutinise these complaints and take it further if found valid and accompanied with the complainant's complete details such as name and email ID. The complainant would receive status updates on the complaint by SMS /and e:mail. The WhatsApp number is not meant for commercial purpose. The complaint processing is free for consumers.
The launch will be followed by awareness campaigns by means of print advertisements and radio spots with the tagline 'Spot Bad Ad? Snap and WhatsApp +91 77100 12345'.
Speaking on the launch, Benoy Roychowdhury, ASCI chairman, says, "We are happy to launch the WhatsApp number, close to the World Consumer Rights Day (March 15). The ASCI is truly empowering consumers by making it more accessible. Today, aalmost every person with a smartphone is using messaging services such as WhatsApp. Technology makes it possible for them to flag false, misleading or offensive ads instantaneously and anytime, anywhere, while on the go, be it while reading newspapers at home, on their way to office, listening to radio, or watching TV in the evening."
Established in 1985, the ASCI is recognised under 'The Cable Television Network Rules, 1994' which states that 'No advertisement which violates the Code for self-regulation in advertising, as adopted by the Advertising Standard Council of India (ASCI), Mumbai, for public exhibition in India, from time to time, shall be carried in the cable service'. The ASCI is the 'executive arm' of the Department of Consumer Affairs handling all complaints pertaining to misleading advertisements.