Consumer Issues
How to tackle misleading advertisements

The Ministry of Consumer Affairs has started public forums seeking inputs from public on various consumer related issues, including action to be taken against misleading advertisement. Visit the forums and post your views, opinions on misleading advertisement

 

In what is possibly the first ever exercise by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs to actually involve consumers to voice their opinions and suggestions, a public forum has been opened seeking inputs on various issues, including those related to actions against misleading advertisements. These forums were created in December 2014, and are open for public participation till 23 January 2015. Suggestions for steps that can be taken by state governments and police, voluntary consumer organisations as well as individual consumers in tackling misleading advertisements are being sought. Perhaps, another sign of changing tides in the political sphere, consumer feedback is being encouraged in policy formulation.
 
Misleading advertisements include exaggerated and overstated effects or attributes of a product without substantiating evidence, citing fake licenses or warranties and use of misleading graphics among other things. Many of the concerns and suggestions that have been raised in these forums include issues related to advertisements in the healthcare category (hospitals and medicines) and the need for a central authority that is responsible for monitoring advertisements in the media that is accessible to the public. 
 
This brings to light that there is little awareness amongst the common people regarding ASCI, the Advertising Standards Council of India, a self-regulatory organisation that regulates advertising content and provides guidelines and a code of conduct to be adhered to by all advertisements. It is accessible to all consumers as well as advertisers. Anyone can file a complaint with the ASCI against advertisements they find misleading, harmful or unethical. In 2007, the union government amended the Cable TV Network Rules' Advertising Code, according to which any advertisements that violate the ASCI code will not be permitted to be aired on television. ASCI have been very active in monitoring and taking prompt and strict action against advertisements that do not meet the prescribed codes and guidelines. In December 2014 alone, ASCI upheld 113 out of the 144 complaints registered. 
 
Some of the complaints upheld by the Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) of the ASCI include those against advertisements for Good Knight (Godrej Consumer Products Ltd), which showed a child standing too close to the vaporising machine, Livon Hair Gain (Marico Ltd) that claims to stop hair fall within 90 days. Maruti Swift (Maruti Suzuki India Ltd), which shows the driver performing dangerous stunts, while a child is inside the car, several educational institutes that claim to offer 100% placements and many “miracle” drugs, tonics and treatments that boast of being able to cure ailments and diseases like cancer, infertility, diabetes and hair fall were also banned. The ASCI Code also dictates guidelines for use of results from 'independent research' to promote products, depiction of women and advertisements for discounts or sale offers in advertisements. 
 
A large number of the complaints filed under ASCI as well as in the above-mentioned public forums created by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs are related to advertisements in the healthcare category – these include concerns regarding aggressive marketing strategies employed by hospitals and other healthcare units and false claims made in advertisements for various drugs and cosmetic products. 
 
There are several legislations in place that deal with these issues – specifically, the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1955 and the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, both under the Department of Health and Family Welfare. However, considering the large number of misleading and even outrageous advertisements for “miracle” drugs and low cost treatments that one comes across, it is clear that there is a lot to be done to ensure implementation of these legislations. 
 
It is imperative that efforts are taken to keep in check the authenticity and the ethical standards of advertisements. Encouraging consumer participation is a step forward in this direction. Increasing awareness about organisations such as ASCI as well as relevant legislatures and stringent norms to ensure credibility of the claims made by advertisements are also important. 
 
Click to visit the forums opened by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs 
 
 
 
 
 

User

COMMENTS

KAIALSH SINGHAL

2 years ago

sir, first the celebrity who to be part of advertisement and without using such product , inducing others to use product to be penalised heavily and second the expenditure on advertisement to be disallowed and profit of that product to be transfered to consumer welfare schemes regards kc singhal

A few tips on safe driving to save the lives of your kith and kin!
However cautious the driver of our vehicle may be, the extraneous circumstances can cause freak accidents and we can be the victims of such unexpected happenings, if we do not follow safety measures like wearing seat belts even if we are seated on the back seat
 
Normally, when we drive on dual carriage ways (called as ‘divided highways’ in US and Canada), we tend to go a little faster. This is because we feel that there are no chances of head-on collision due to the existence of a median strip, which separates the opposing lanes of traffic, giving us a false sense of security. But even in dual carriage roads, accidents do happen and if we take a little extra care, many a life of our kith and kin can be saved. Here are two live examples of how accidents happen in a split second, and how you can minimize their impact on the human lives. 
 

First Accident:

My niece and nephew with their five year old son while proceeding by car from Bengaluru to Pondicherry recently met with an accident within half an hour of starting their journey in a dual carriage way called NICE Road. It was early morning and raining in Bengaluru and the potholes on the road were not visible due to water stagnation on such holes.  There was a steep pothole in the center of the road, which made the car jump and when he applied brakes, the car was completely skidded, toppled and landed upside down. (See picture)
 
When we heard that news, our immediate reaction was that something fatal would have happened and we were curious to know the extent of injury to the people inside the car due to the accident.
 
This is what happened to the occupants of the car. 
1. First the good news. The only boy child sitting alone on the back seat had a miraculous escape. He is completely safe and there are not even scratches in his body. 
 
2. The husband driving the car had fractured his right hand, which required medical care. But for the fracture in his right hand, he had no other injuries and he was alright in all other respects. 
 
3. His wife was sitting on the passenger seat by the side of the driver which is supposed to be the most risky seat in a motor car. She, however, fractured her left hand and it was found that she had two fractures and required immediate surgery to fix the fractured bones. 
 
As stated above, fortunately both the occupants of the front seats including the driver survived with minimum injury and most surprisingly the child on the back seat was totally safe and was not injured at all. This miracle, if I may say so, happened because of the following safety precautions taken by the family while starting their journey.
 
1. Both the husband (driver) and wife, who were in their early thirties, took care to ensure that they had worn their seat belts properly, knowing fully well that sitting in the front seat is always more risky particularly while driving on the highways for long distances. 
 
2. The car they were travelling had air bags on both the front seats and they had ensured that they were ‘on’ before starting their journey. I understand that there are ON-OFF switches for air bags in some cars and in this case the switch was on at all times. When the car met with the accident, the air bags opened up automatically and that prevented those seated in the front seat from banging their head to the dash board of the car. 
 
3. The most admirable thing was that they had ensured that the child was seated on the back seat and was securely tied with the seat belt, which was properly buckled. This thoughtful action on the part of the parents virtually saved their child who had no scratches at all on his body. 
 

Second Accident:

Here is another freak accident that took place recently when a friend of mine and his wife were travelling in a cab on the outskirts of Bengaluru. They were sitting on the back seat when suddenly the driver applied brakes to stop the car as the vehicle in front of them had stopped abruptly due to some obstruction on the road ahead. Though the car in which my friends were travelling had safely come to a halt, they were suddenly hit by a speeding car from behind, which resulted in all the three cars hitting each other and the one in the middle occupied by our friend got hit from both ends. The lady seated on the back of the driver’s seat met with severe injuries to her face, as she banged against the driver’s seat in front of her which was decorated with glass beads hanging behind the head-rest of the driver. The lady’s face was badly disfigured due to the force with which she hit the seat in front which had those glass beads.  Her husband sitting beside her, had leg injuries though it was not that severe.
 
Both of them had not worn the seat belts, though they were available on the back seat as well. If they had worn the seat belts, the extent of injury could have been possibility much less. 
 

Lessons to learn from these two accidents:

In our country, it is mandatory only for the driver to wear seat belts by law and others are not bound to wear seat belts. The first lesson to learn from these two accidents is that all passengers sitting in the car must invariably wear seat belts irrespective of the seats occupied by them. There is a tendency not to wear seat belts by those sitting on the back seat, without knowing the risks involved. It is abundantly clear from the above accidents that however cautious the driver of the car may be, the extraneous circumstances can cause freak accidents and we can be the victims of such unexpected happenings, if we do not care to wear seat belts even if we are seated on the back seat. 
 
The second and important lesson to learn is that we must ensure that children should also be made to wear seat belts whether they sit independently or on special seats provided to them. Generally, out of love and affection for our children, we tend to leave them free while travelling, and hardly care to ensure that they are properly secured by seat belts. More often than not, children of that age tend to sit on the mother’s lap without wearing seat belts, which could prove fatal both for the mother and the child. The golden rule is “Always remember to buckle up – every time – whenever and wherever you are seated in a car.
 
It is not compulsory in our country for cars to be fitted with air bags, though most of the cars today have air bags fitted as original equipments. Though cars with air bags may cost a bit more, it is always advisable to go for cars fitted with air bags as they provide additional safety. 
 
The existence of ON-OFF switch for air bags is hardly made known to us while buying a new car. If you are buying a car with air bags, please understand the operations of ON-OFF switch fitted inside the car and ensure that it is always put on specially when going on a long trip. 
 
The website of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the US Dept of Transportation gives detailed guidelines on the use of seat belts and air bags with graphic designs of how to use the seat belts for children and with regard to on-off switches on air bags, which are both informative and useful for car users. 
 
It concludes with the following words of wisdom: “Will following these safety tips guarantee that I will be safe in a crash? There is no guarantee of safety in a crash, with or without air bag. However, most of the people killed would not have been seriously injured if they had followed these safety tips.”
 
Do therefore visit:  http://www.safercar.gov/Air+Bags  and go through the Informational Brochure: Air Bags and On-Off Switches
 
This site offers important information to help you stay safe in a vehicle with seat belts and air bags.
 
(The author is a banking analyst and he writes for Moneylife under a pen name ‘Gurpur’)
 

User

COMMENTS

Anand Honnatti

2 years ago

I could not agree more. Last year on a highway, another car rear ended my car as I had to slow down due to vehicle in front slowing down. My mother seated backside escaped unhurt as she was wearing seat belt. Damage to car was significant but we were happy that no one was hurt.

I always insist everyone buckle up, else wont move forward :)

Bapoo Malcolm

2 years ago

Now how did that happen? Sent one message,got two postings!

Type once, get two! .......... a new scheme?

Bapoo Malcolm

2 years ago

Could not be truer. Helmets, seat belts are not bells and whistles. They mean the difference between life and death.

The choice is yours.

Bapoo M. Malcolm

Bapoo Malcolm

2 years ago

Could not be truer. Helmets, seat belts are not bells and whistles. They mean the difference between life and death.

The choice is yours.

Bapoo M. Malcolm

Legal Delays: Who Is To Be Blamed?

Advocates, Judiciary or the Public?

 

An advocate friend is defending a case in a suburban court in Mumbai. As usual, it is a property-related litigation. These days, 70% of cases filed relate to real estate disputes.

 

Land is worth more than gold. Like gold, it attracts those we can do without. More often than not, it is the culpable who jam the judicial machinery with frivolous litigation and even malicious prosecution. Our case deals with a man who files a case in court. He claims to be in possession of a very small piece of land abutting a small road on one side and a gate on the other. The gate is one of two gates of a cooperative housing society (CHS). The man, the plaintiff, cites the municipality as the defendant, no one else.

 

For some reason, no one defends the suit. The usual process is that when no one from the defence denies the claim of the plaintiff, the court has to give the judgement in what is called an ex-parte order. It usually is in favour of the plaintiff.

 

You be the judge

 

What should the order be? In the instant case, the judge granted the man the rights to that postage stamp-size bit of roadside. Up went a vada-paav stall. The man had court papers giving him his title.

 

In cases past, the courts used to grant the plaintiff his prayers, often without considering the merits of the case. It is flawed reasoning and, thankfully, the Supreme Court of India, in a judgement a few months back, has questioned this line of thought. It has said that it is the duty of the court to assess the plaint on the basis of merit and not simply pass an ex-parte order favouring the plaintiff. We fully agree with this view.

 

Why? If the plaintiff is unscrupulous, he may use one of many tricks up his sleeve. Use subterfuge and the court may believe the summons was properly served. The defendant may be out-of-town or indisposed. There could be two persons of the same name in the village; the address could be tenuous, at best. Crooks are ingenious.

 

The vada-paav stall is now up and running. The CHS is appalled. The man says that the gate was put up after his title was adjudicated. It all becomes a matter of proof. And time.

In the meanwhile, our friend doubts the bonafides of the litigants. There is a power of attorney, allegedly executed by the original plaintiff in favour of the man running the stall. But no one recalls seeing the plaintiff. Is the plaintiff alive or dead? Or maybe non-existent. Stranger things have happened in court.

 

The advocate asks for proof of the plaintiff being alive. If the plaintiff is dead, the suit abates. It is as dead as the plaintiff; unless a legal heir is brought on record. There are rules to overcome this. The Code of Civil Procedure (CPC), the advocates’ bible, says that the advocate must inform the court within three months of a litigant’s death.

 

The matter either ends or the heirs carry on. But what if the advocate does not volunteer the information? The other party, having no access to the news of the demise, soldiers on, spending time, money and energy on futile litigation. The court’s time is wasted. The administration costs shoot up. Other important matters are kept on the back burner.

 

You be the judge and solve this conundrum.

 

When we approached the powers-that-be, they quoted the CPC; a catch-22 situation. As advocates, we have been arguing this matter amongst ourselves and come up with what seems a workable solution. If the other side, when in doubt, asks for a ‘life certificate’ for the other lawyer to produce, say, once a year, it must be done. The method is simple. Pension authorities already have such a system in place. Why cannot the courts? After all, purposeful concealment is contempt of court and receiving consideration for such concealment is criminal contempt.

 

(Bapoo Malcolm is a practising lawyer in Mumbai. Please email your comments to [email protected])

User

COMMENTS

Leslie Menezes

2 years ago

The judiciary has to set its own house in order. Justice is denied at all levels in the present court judicial system

Suketu Shah

2 years ago

Most lawyers are people who play "double game" and take money from both sides inspired by the way Congress ran last 10 yrs.This is all set to change now under BJP.

captainjohann

2 years ago

First of all there is no difference between Judiciary and Lawyers from whose lot the Judges are selected and the nexus between the two in posting their cases in particular bench, etc are well known.the lawyers representing the plaintiff also know about the other party being sick or out of country and connive with police and warrant summoning authorities who just paste the order in empty house. All these arre known to the Judicial lawyer nexus and the super Rich who thrive on delays.How a wilful defaulter like Mallyya goes to Calcutta and gets stay order. Why Calcutta? 2G,Mining scam, coal block,spectrum allocation and one can now see even murder trial, terrorism trials getting delyed till it is forgotten.

Vaibhav Dhoka

2 years ago

Many people take judicial route to extract illegal benefit as they know that Indian judiciary takes too long to decide a dispute till then he enjoys benefit of property or his/her illegal act and if case goes against him still he remains happy,because delay is his gain.Indian judiciary never doesn't compensate in frivolous litigation.Corruption plays big role in this.

Vaibhav Dhoka

2 years ago

Many people take judicial route to extract illegal benefit as they know that Indian judiciary takes too long to decide a dispute till then he enjoys benefit of property or his/her illegal act and if case goes against him still he remains happy,because delay is his gain.Indian judiciary never doesn't compensate in frivolous litigation.Corruption plays big role in this.

KAIALSH SINGHAL

2 years ago

sir,consular and party both take the case casually and also wait and watch for any favorable decision of any other high court or tribunal , when acts are central acts then why two decisions and if pronounced then why not administrative relief and why ordinary person to be penalized for understanding of law -- which understood by two different authority in different manner regards kc singhal

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