Citizens' Issues
Tackling False and Misleading Ads

Self-regulation by ASCI is any day better than an official regulator for advertisements

Self-regulation can work quite effectively to curb false and misleading advertisements, even when an impromptu committee of socially-conscious citizens is put together to decide complaints. Marketing and advertising expert Paritosh Joshi demonstrated this most effectively at a Moneylife Foundation seminar on how to hold irresponsible advertisers accountable. “The advertising code revolves around just four words—truthful, decent, safe and fair—to decide whether an advertisement is appropriate,” he instructed the committee drawn from the audience. Despite strong differences in sensitivity, perception and attitudes of the audience, decisions by this group mirrored the view of ASCI’s (Advertising Standards Council of India) official committee, in most cases.

This is significant because, every year, the ministry of consumer affairs (MCA) threatens to set up a government regulator to monitor advertising. Advertisers and agencies believe, with good reason, that bureaucratic, censor-board-like clearances will lead to delays and corruption. It was clear from the programme that an independent committee, using common sense, could be just as effective in holding advertisers accountable without any knowledge of the ASCI code. Remember, the withdrawal of an expensive advertising campaign, especially one that has celebrity endorsements, imposes a massive financial cost on the advertiser. A strong code is a good deterrent.

Unfortunately, consumer organisations and academics, often the beneficiaries of financial grants from the ministry, tend to back the MCA in asking for an advertising regulator. Do we need another censor board for advertising? The common-sense answer would be a resounding ‘No’. In the past couple of years, ASCI has, indeed, worked hard to increase its reach through suo moto action and an independent monitoring mechanism to catch false and irresponsible advertising with a special focus on education ads, dubious medicines and slimming products. But a lot more needs to be done.

ASCI still attracts criticism for dragging its feet on issues that affect its large advertisers. It also does not cover financial advertising, where misleading claims and calculations are subtler. Three specific areas that ASCI needs to address are:

•    Disclaimers continue to be unreadable. The text of these disclaimers must also be made available to complainants on request, at least by email. Similarly, complainants must be given access to research reports that form the basis of specific positive claims made in advertisements (15% whiter, 3.5x stronger, twice as soft, etc). This is important because, very often, the results have been found misleading or based on unreliable sources and unrecognised authorities. While these usually become the subject of intra-industry disputes, there is no reason to deny the information to complainants within a specific timeframe.

•    ASCI’s biggest weakness is its reluctance to act against repeat offenders or habitual offenders. These are usually large multinational companies who are hard-pressed to substantiate the claims of their fairness creams or promise of flawless complexions, anti-pimple remedies or even nutrition products aimed at children. Many believe that the companies have worked out a neat routine of carpet-bombing a new advertising campaign, knowing full well that it will lead to consumer complaints (at least from competitors) which will be upheld and force the withdrawal of the campaign in about six weeks. The next campaign, cynically, makes a new set of unsubstantiated claims that are again upheld. If ASCI fails to respond to demands to step up action against powerful repeat-offenders, it will continue to face the charge of being a weak regulator and the constant threat of the greater evil of a government regulator being set up.

User

COMMENTS

Vinay Joshi

3 years ago

Hello Ms. Sucheta,

Very good you've come on this subject after a long time, possibly cause of CCPC!?

Way back to you a ASCI member i had written about Marico 'Parachute Hair Oil', cleared for excise duty as 'edible oil'.

I had straight stated that can ASCI members & Marico Board of Dirs will eat fries from so called Parachute Hair Oil? 'EDIBLE OIL'!?

IT WAS PERTINENT TO YOU AS ASCI MEMBER.

Where is the Drugs & Cosmetics Act gone? WHY ASCI fails to resort to the stringent provisions to book the errant?

If celebrities endorsing products should be made liable to pay for the false claims then by logic ASCI members should also be made to pay for passing off falsification ads!

ASCI has ever taken any su-motu action?

Yes there has to be a 'CENSOR BOARD', for ads as they are BOMBARDMENT UNLEASHED to the gullible in all media segments.

Certain ads can be degrading or connoting different aspects, immoral, irresponsible & careless.

Cinema films is one's discretion!

Do not get to me the mandate of ASCI. IS ASCI fearing govt.reulator?

If so why? What ASCI will do when CCPC recommendations get into force? No doubt a far cry till next central govt sets in & if at all its pursued!?

Regards,




REPLY

Vinay Joshi

In Reply to Vinay Joshi 3 years ago

Ms.Sucheta,

The just concluded 'super bowl', in US [Feb 2,] 30 secs add slot was US$4mn. Coca Cola ad had certain aspects, as of now not pulled up by any authority.

Regards,

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Exchanging Notes

RBI’s order to withdraw all currency notes of pre-2005 creates confusion that could be easily avoided

In a positive move, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has decided to mop up currency notes with lower security features which have been widely counterfeited. But the way it went about it caused a burst of initial panic. RBI needs to learn that issues which impact the aam aadmi need clear and comprehensive communication rather than bureaucratic circulars followed by multiple clarifications. Now, here are some facts that should have been communicated along with the mid-January circular to withdraw currency printed prior to 2005 (where the notes do not mention the year of printing and have less security features and, hence, are widely counterfeited).

First, RBI’s CVPS (currency verification & processing system) machines have already been withdrawing pre-2005 notes for nearly a year. The new circular is only to mop up the residual notes. This was one of the measures to counter the large number of sophisticated counterfeit notes which can be detected by only CVPS machines. It is, however, unclear why the exercise includes Rs10, Rs20 and Rs100 notes, where counterfeit or fake notes are of poor quality and easier to detect.

RBI had initially instructed banks to exchange notes only after 31st March and this set off panic among users when uninformed shopkeepers and taxi-drivers refused to accept old notes. Immediately, a brisk business of exchanging pre-2005 notes at a 2% commission sprang up in Mumbai, as reported by a local daily. Following a clarification by RBI, banks are now exchanging pre-2005 currency without a murmur. Our sources also tell us that bank ATMs will not dispense old currency notes.

By announcing a positive and pre-planned move on the eve of a general election, without adequate public information, RBI caused needless confusion. Governor Raghuram Rajan had to use his post-credit policy press briefing on 28th January to clarify that the currency clean up was not aimed at catching tax-evaders or attacking black money. RBI still needs to put in place a communication strategy to reach out to 300 million-plus unbanked Indians who deal only in cash. A radio campaign in local languages and a programme to work with banking correspondents to facilitate the mop up of old currency must be put in place well before 31st March to avoid another round of confusion and exploitation of those who have limited means.

User

COMMENTS

Hemant

3 years ago

I fully agree with you.People are more confused then clear about same.Just two days back i withdraw money from ATM & i got all old 1000 Rs. notes,which in present days,was difficult to use ,hence i had to visit my bank & ask for replacement.The cashier says,these are valid notes & moreover he shows me new ten bundles of 10 Rs.note,which were printed before 2005,received by him from RBI.He said & i agree with him, that presently they are more under pressure because of this confusion created circular.

REPLY

Vinay Joshi

In Reply to Hemant 3 years ago

Declining to accept 'legal tender'is an offence under prevailing law.

I refuse to believe that the said bank cashier was having pre 2005 notes as sice many years banks are supposed to remove them from circulation.

Secondly RBI ntfn states that after April 1,2014 till June 30,2014 bank branches will exchange the notes. Another aspect 50K & above exchange will require PAN as is the norm as of now also.

Regards,

Hemant

In Reply to Vinay Joshi 3 years ago

I had withdrawn 1000 Rs notes from Indian bank ATM,which were old & had seen pre 2005 notes of 10 Rs,shown to me by cashier,whom i knew since years & trust her.you have every right to refuse,what i had stated:)& i have no intention to harass other layman under pretext of prevailing law,to accept old notes ,that of 1000 Rs,as it was easy for me to get it change from my bank.

Vinay Joshi

In Reply to Hemant 3 years ago

Mr.Hemant,

As per me Rs 10/- notes, pre 2005 fresh notes, can't be sent by RBI!

The exercise of withdrawing pre 2005 notes was started in 2009 by the erstwhile Guv. Dr.Subbarao.

In no way i'm challenging your statement in respect of Rs 10/- wad, do not misunderstand me. [it may have come thro' inter branch currency transfer or a deposit of another client.]

Yes, i do agree with you with your Rs1K aspect. Best aspect.

Regards,



Vinay Joshi

In Reply to Hemant 3 years ago

Mr.Hemant,

As per me Rs 10/- notes, pre 2005 fresh notes, can't be sent by RBI!

The exercise of withdrawing pre 2005 notes was started in 2009 by the erstwhile Guv. Dr.Subbarao.

In no way i'm challenging your statement in respect of Rs 10/- wad, do not misunderstand me. [it may have come thro' inter branch currency transfer or a deposit of another client.]

Yes, i do agree with you with your Rs1K aspect. Best aspect.

Regards,



Vinay Joshi

3 years ago

Hello Ms. Sucheta,

It seems you have not received any reply to your letter addressed to The RBI Guv;

In the northern region & as well in MP etc; 5/10/50 FICN's are being undetected which are in daily circulation. So much so in certain parts, two halves in small poly pouch stapled in circulation.

Secondly since 08/09 FICN's became a menace the then RBI Guv, [who else? D.Subbarao] had initiated & for last 2/3 yrs a perpetual exercise of the banks.

The fear is among the hoarders & not for the poor, illiterate.

Regards,

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