ASCI complaints have risen exponentially in the last month

Complaints received by ASCI have increased sharply over the past month, with most of the complaints coming in from small towns

There has been a sharp rise in the number of complaints against advertisements received by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) in the last month, according to the council’s secretary general, Alan Colaco. Most of the complaints are from small towns.

“We used to get more than 15 to 20 phone calls in a month. Last month, we got more than 200 phone calls,” Mr Colaco said.

ASCI is processing all complaints with nearly 50% of them being upheld, he added.

According to Mr Colaco, the rise in complaints is due to ASCI’s ad awareness campaign which it started from December 2009. The entity had launched a nation-wide campaign to educate and encourage a majority of citizens to report any kind of dishonest or misleading advertisements from any advertiser across all categories. 

“Earlier, we used to get a lot of complaints from metros. Now we are (also) getting complaints from small towns,” Mr Colaco said.

The complaints over the advertisements are related to all media—45% from print, 40% from television and the balance 15% from other media.

Mr Colaco refused to mention the companies figuring in these complaints. However, some of these companies are reportedly from ASCI’s consumer complaints council report published in 2008- 2009.

Most of the complaints are related to firms from the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector, which people believe are portraying indecent representation of women. The complaints are against misleading advertising and over various claims made by the FMCG sector.

“We have also received more than 50 complaints against two (particular) ads which people have found indecent,” Mr Colaco said.

In November 2009, ASCI had issued new guidelines for food & beverage (F&B) companies, asking them to provide proof for health foods and drinks that contain or claim to contain proteins, iron and calcium. These products have to be scientifically tested, and reports presented, before the same can be publicised, said ASCI.

There is also a lack of clarity in relation to the ‘indecent representation’ of women. According to the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986, “’Indecent representation of women’ means the depiction in any manner of the figure of a woman; her form or body or any part thereof in such way as to have the effect of being indecent, or derogatory to, or denigrating women, or is likely to deprave, corrupt or injure the public morality or morals”. This definition is leading to a wide range of interpretations.

ASCI is a voluntary, self-regulatory council and a non-government body. According to ASCI’s protocol, advertisements must be fair, honest, indiscriminative and not indecent.

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