Shreyas Kulkarni

With the CCPA regulating misleading ads, what is ASCI's next move?

ASCI is a self-regulatory body and unlike the CCPA, it can't impose fines or penalties on parties guilty of misleading ads.

Indian advertising got to know about a new law that's aimed at tackling misleading and fraudulent advertising. The Consumer Protection Act 2019 came into effect on 20 July 2020 replacing a more than three decades old Consumer Protection Act 1986.

One of the main features on the new act is the creation of the CCPA or the Central Consumer Protection Authority under Section 10. A chief commissioner will head the CCPA and as per PRSIndia, this authority will regulate matters related to violation of consumer rights, unfair trade practices, and misleading advertisements. A Director-General will head the investigation wing of the CCPA to conduct inquiries or investigations into violations.

Under the law, mediums under regulation include TV, print, radio, outdoor, and even digital. The CCPA can order the concerned entity/individual to discontinue a misleading advertisement or modify it and impose penalties. A manufacturer or endorser can face a fine of Rs 10lkah and a jail term for two years for misleading advertisements while in case of a subsequent offence, the fine may extend to Rs 50lakh and the jail term to five years.

Until the new act came into force, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), a self-regulatory body of the Indian advertising industry. It took up complaints against misleading advertisements and monitored advertising itself too.

ASCI's Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) would decide whether an ad is misleading or not post a complaint. In the end, compliance from the advertiser is voluntary through the removal of the ad or modifications to it.

But, with the CCPA and its new teeth in the forms of investigative powers and the ability to levy fines... what happens to ASCI because it's a self-regulatory body with no such powers?

Shweta Purandare, Secretary-General at ASCI, said that the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, law heralds a new age of consumer empowerment. By giving it real teeth, the government has ensured that marketers are more responsible when it comes to advertising.

"On our part, we’ll continue to focus on the good work we’ve been doing, and we’d love to work alongside the CCPA. We will consider how to reach out to it at the appropriate time," revealed Purandare.

She continued that we (ASCI) have, in fact, had very successful partnerships with government departments. For instance, through an MoU with the Department of Consumer Affairs, we worked together on the Grievances Against Misleading Advertisements initiative that yielded great results.

ASCI’s strength lies in its 35 years of expertise and efficient redressal of complaints. We are also instituting a more rigorous monitoring of misleading advertisements that will include digital media in addition to print and television.