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ASCI processes over 1,000 complaints against misleading ads

By afaqs! news bureau , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | March 18, 2016
The regulator was appointed by the Department of Consumer Affairs to monitor its web portal 'Grievances Against Misleading Advertisements (GAMA)' in March 2015.

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), a self-regulatory body that propagates responsible advertising, has stated in an official communique that it has processed more than 1,000 complaints against misleading advertisements on behalf of the Department of Consumer Affairs. For the same, the latter had appointed the ASCI to monitor the web portal -- www.gama.gov.in -- launched on March 18, 2015.

According to a press note, GAMA, which stands for Grievances Against Misleading Advertisements, has received more than 1,000 complaints till date which have been processed by the ASCI. The note also states that most of these complaints were received from individual consumers and a few from consumer organisations such as the Consumer Education and Research Centre (CERC).

The grievances ranged across sectors such as telecom, banking, consumer durables and e-commerce, and included advertising mediums such as television, print, websites and other digital mediums.

The complaints which were upheld by the ASCI's Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) saw advertisers either withdraw the advertisements or modify them appropriately within the stipulated period, thus complying with the CCC decisions.

The complaints against misleading advertisements received on the GAMA portal are handled according to a three-tier system which involves the following procedure: Complaints are first processed by the ASCI, followed by the second level of escalation in case of non-compliance to a sub-committee headed by the joint secretary of Department of Consumer Affairs under Inter Ministerial Monitoring Committee (IMMC). The third level involves the concerned regulator take legal action in case of persistent offenders.

Benoy Roychowdhury

Commenting on the success of the GAMA portal, C Viswanath, secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs, says, "The problem of misleading advertisements is extensive and needs immediate attention. The launch of the GAMA portal has helped us to accomplish the vision we have towards protecting consumer interest. The need for government and self-regulatory bodies like the ASCI to work together to provide effective and timely grievance redressal to consumers is the key to tackle the issue. This model successfully demonstrates more governance and less government."

Speaking on behalf of the ASCI, Benoy Roychowdhury, chairman, ASCI, adds, "The ASCI was entrusted with the responsibility of the processing of GAMA complaints. I am happy that the Board has been able to speedily address all the complaints received till date. This co-regulation initiative between the government and the ASCI, has further enhanced the effectiveness of protecting consumers from advertisements which could be making misleading, false or unsubstantiated claims. We wish GAMA, while entering its second year, greater success."

The ASCI, established in 1985, launched a mobile app in June 2015, which allows consumers to complain against offensive ads by clicking pictures of the same and sending it to the ASCI instantly.

The Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA) is one of the two departments under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution. It was constituted as a separate department in June 1997 as it was considered necessary to have a separate department to give a fillip to the nascent consumer movement in the country.

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