The ASCI has revealed that complaints against 344 advertisements were upheld after evaluating 385 advertisements. The independent regulatory body investigated complaints against 564 advertisements, out of which 114 were direct complaints and 449 were picked through SUO MOTU surveillance.
During the months of August and September 2019, the Advertisement Standards Council of India (ASCI) investigated complaints against 564 advertisements, of which 179 advertisements were promptly withdrawn after receiving communication from ASCI. The independent Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) of ASCI evaluated 385 advertisements, of which complaints against 344 advertisements were upheld. 259 of these advertisements belonged to the education sector, 50 belonged to the healthcare sector, eight to personal care, eight to the food and beverages sector, and 19 belonged to the ‘others’ category.
There were several brands in the food and beverages sector making comparative claims regarding the product composition, taste preferences, health benefits or market leadership. Many of these claims stood unsubstantiated. The CCC also considered the comparisons to be unfairly denigrating the entire category. The objectionable advertisements included a known dairy brand's unsubstantiated claim of having better cookies than other brands in the market. Another snack brand, endorsed by a prominent cricket celebrity claimed that upto 60 per cent people say that their baked snacks taste better than other fried snacks in the market — a claim unsubstantiated.
The same celebrity endorsed a leadership claim of a food supplement brand that claimed to be the 'No. 1 Supplement for Men'. The claim was recognised as unsubstantiated and misleading since the ranking was achieved by the brand in the UK.
Rohit Gupta, chairman, ASCI, said in a press release, “Recently as per media reports, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) issued a statement that advertisers must desist from making misleading claims and that food companies could be liable to pay a fine of upto Rs 10 lakh. Consequences of misleading advertising are grave, not only for the public but also for advertisers as it damages their reputation and breaks consumers’ trust in their products. The ASCI encourages advertisers to follow the ASCI Code for self-regulation in advertising and guidelines for Food and Beverages sector in particular so that all stakeholder interests are taken care of.”
Following advertisements in the healthcare sector were found to be misleading that exploit consumers’ lack of knowledge and could lead to widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers.
1. Starkey Laboratories India Pvt. Ltd. (Atharva Speech and Hearing Care): The print advertisement's claim “The world's best Hearing Aid costing INR 3.5 Lacs merely at the price of our entry Level Model”, was not substantiated. The advertiser did not substantiate that their products were “World's best” as claimed.
2. T.A Majeed's Fair Pharma: The print advertisement promotes treatment of cancer patients who have difficulty in swallowing. The claim “By taking our herbal medicine, this problem in swallowing food can be solved. This problem is brought about by viruses that cross blood brain barrier”, was not substantiated as the advertisers did not provide details regarding the medicines used for the treatment, nor any clinical evidence or a scientific rationale to support the claim.
The CCC found that the claims made in the following two advertisements were misleading by exaggeration and could lead to widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers.
1. CL Educate Ltd. (Career Launcher – CAT 2018 result): The print advertisements claim "28,603 IIM calls in CAT 2018 and counting", and “28,655 IIM calls in CAT 2018”, were inadequately substantiated and are misleading by ambiguity. The CCC observed that the data validated by the CA certificate was for the number of interview calls received by 80 students; however, the reference to IIM was missing in the certificate, contrary to what is claimed in the advertisements.
2. KISH Academy: The website advertisement’s claim “The Most Successful Institute in India” was not substantiated with any verifiable comparative data of the advertiser’s institute and other similar institutes in India.
1. Dabur India Ltd (Odomos Fabric Roll-on): The product packaging claimed, “Just four Dots on Your Clothes, Mosquitoes Won’t Come Close” when seen in conjunction with the visual of the girl surrounded by a blue bubble with no mosquitoes inside and several outside, giving an impression of 100 per cent protection was inadequately substantiated.
2. ITC Limited (Fiama Scents Bodywash): The print advertisement’s claim, “with just a simple touch anytime, anywhere", was inadequately substantiated and is misleading by ambiguity.
Food and Beverage
1. Parle Products Limited (Parle Happy Happy Biscuits): The back panel of the product pack claims “Net Weight: 60g + 20g* Extra = 80g with MRP Rs.10.00”, and front panel of pack claims “33%* extra”. Though offer claim of “33% extra” on 60g pack was not considered objectionable, its presentation on pack was misleading by omission as it does not mention the basis of comparison alongside the offer claimed.
2. Gujarat Co-Operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd. (Amul Butter Cookies): The print and Twitter advertisement claims “Other butter cookies contain 0.3 per cent to 3 per cent butter and Amul Butter Cookies contain 25 per cent Amul butter” and “Other butter cookies have 20 per cent to 22 per cent vegetable oil and Amul Butter Cookies contain 0 per cent vegetable oil” were not substantiated. The claims unfairly denigrate the entire category of butter cookie products.
1. ARG Outlier Media (Republic TV): The ad-mailer’s leadership claim was misleading and contravened BARC India Ratings – Principles of Fair and Permissible Usage. The BARC Principles emphatically do not allow reporting of any ratings data as percentages.
2. MakeMyTrip India Pvt. Ltd: The YouTube advertisement featuring Bollywood celebrities Alia Bhatt and Ranveer Singh that claimed “60 Minutes Resolution Else Free Stay” was misleading by ambiguity, omission and implication. The advertiser did not provide any evidence showing that the celebrities had done due diligence prior to the endorsement, hence violating ASCI’s Guidelines for Celebrities in Advertising as well.
SUO MOTU surveillance by ASCI for misleading advertisements
The advertisements listed below were picked up through ASCI's Suo Motu Surveillance of print and TV media through the National Advertisement Monitoring Services (NAMS) project. Out of 449 advertisements that were picked, 147 cases were resolved immediately wherein the advertisers withdrew the advertisements, post receiving complaints. From the 302 advertisements examined by the CCC, complaints against 301 advertisements were upheld. Of these advertisements, 251 belonged to the education sector, 33 belonged to healthcare, six belonged to the personal care, two belonged to the food and beverage category and nine fell in the 'others' category.
Here are some of these advertisements.
1. Adarsh Rajasthan PG College: The print advertisement’s claim “Fees will be refunded if student does not get selected in guarantee batch”, was not substantiated with supporting evidence.
2. AAA College of Engineering & Technology: The print advertisement’s claim “100% scholarship worth 4 Crores” was not substantiated with supporting evidence or through an independent audit or verification certificate.
1. Jolly Health Care - Jolly Tulsi 51 Drops: The television advertisement’s claim, “Increase Immunity and Saves/Protects Form Diseases” featuring celebrity Hrithik Roshan was not substantiated with robust clinical evidence of product efficacy and is misleading.
2. Sadhana Clinic: The print advertisement’s claims, “Remove diseases with Immunize therapy (Allopathy)”, “Any type of skin diseases of incurable allergy like Psoriasis is cured from roots with Immunize therapy by increasing immunity power in blood”, and “Stubborn diseases like skin allergy, joints pain, and frozen shoulder are being cured”, were not substantiated with supporting clinical evidence or with treatment efficacy data.
1. Johnson & Johnson Private Limited (Stayfree Secure): The print advertisement’s claim, “Absorbs 2X Faster” was misleading. The test report shows that the 2x claim is established for the test fluid as compared to the advertiser’s old product. The TVC violated ASCI’s Guidelines for Disclaimers as well; the basis of comparison should not be stated as a footnote but needs to be present in the claim itself or in font size at least 25 per cent of the size of the claim and positioned immediately next to or immediately below it.
2. Raymond Consumer Care Private Limited - Kamasutra Spark Deo Spray: The television commercial and pack artwork claim “No. 1 Deo Nationwide” was considered misleading to mention the category and source of the claim. The advertisements violated the ASCI Guidelines for Disclaimers.
Food and Beverage
1. Cargill India Pvt. Ltd (Nature Fresh Acti Heart): The television advertisement’s claim, “Your old heart oil cannot fight against heart problems, Switch to Nature Fresh Acti Heart that takes complete care of your heart” was misleading. The voice over claiming that the product “takes complete care of your heart” is contradictory to the disclaimer that references that the product “helps” in taking care of the heart; the disclaimers were also not legible and in violation the ASCI Guidelines for Disclaimers.
2. Wrap It Up: The print advertisement’s claim, “World's Most Favourite Wraps”, was not substantiated with any verifiable comparative data or any market survey data of the advertiser’s brand of wraps and other similar wrap brands worldwide, to prove that their wraps are the more preferred or favoured brand, or through a third-party validation.
1. Arvind Limited (Wrangler Inficool Apparel): The television advertisement’s claims “Gives Greater Breathability” and “Fast Drying” were inadequately substantiated. The advertiser did not have complete supportive data available with them prior to making the claims, which makes it misleading.
2. Madura Fashion & Lifestyle (Van Heusen Anti-Bacterial Innerwear): The print advertisement’s claim “For non-stop freshness” and “The Anti-Bacterial Innerwear”, were inadequately substantiated. It was observed that the amount of Silver Coating was not mentioned for any of the fabrics. The claims were inadequately substantiated, misleading by exaggeration and implication.