During the month of December 2019, ASCI investigated complaints against 310 advertisements, of which 77 advertisements were promptly withdrawn by the advertisers on receipt of communication from ASCI.
The independent Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) of ASCI evaluated the remaining 233advertisements, of which complaints against 225 advertisements were upheld. Of these 225 advertisements, 124 belonged to the education sector, 66 belonged to the healthcare sector, seven to the food & beverages sector, six to personal care and 22 were from the ‘others’ category.
A famous online shopping website was found misleading consumers by advertising a coupon code offering a discount on all orders. Print advertisement of one of the famous alcohol brands in India was upheld because of surrogate advertising and violating ASCI’s guidelines of brand extension products. A widely used toothbrush brand could not substantiate a claim of being India’s No. 1 Toothbrush brand, recommended by Dentists. ASCI, through its Suo Motu surveillance, picked advertisements that were in violation of Guidelines for celebrities in an advertisement. An advertisement featuring a famous Bollywood star endorsing the claim “India’s First Hygienic Gym” was found to be misleading. Claims made by one advertiser marketing ayurvedic eye drops co-promoted with a movie release and endorsed by the two protagonist actresses in the movie were not substantiated. Another advertisement by the same advertiser for women’s health tonic featuring a yesteryear Bollywood celebrity was found to be misleading.
Four years ago this month, ASCI introduced WhatsApp number 7710012345for consumers for quick, easy and free redressal of their complaints against objectionable advertisements. The number of consumers contacting ASCI via WhatsApp from across India has steadily increased over the years, more so after many channels started carrying this number in their scroll as per the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting advisory of January 2019 creating awareness about ASCI. The number of complaints attributed to this WhatsApp source has tripled.
According to Shweta Purandare, Secretary-General, ASCI, “Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic situation, there is widespread anxiety, confusion, and fear amongst the public at large. ASCI is monitoring advertisements that are making unsubstantiated and opportunistic claims. We have issued notices to advertisers for immediate suspension of such advertisements pending investigation. ASCI’s active Social Media listening, as well as the availability of the WhatsApp number 7710012345 during the lockdown period, have been key in enabling ASCI to act swiftly.”
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