In February 2019, Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) investigated complaints against 243 advertisements, of which the advertisers ensured corrective action for 63 advertisements once they received complaints from ASCI.
The Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) of ASCI upheld complaints against 145 advertisements out of 180 advertisements evaluated by them. Of these 145 advertisements, 83 belonged to the healthcare sector, 33 to the education sector, ten to the food & beverages sector, one to personal care and 18 were from the ‘others’ category.
Majority of the flagged ads were upheld for "exaggeration of product efficacy and exploiting consumers’ lack of knowledge." This was followed by violation of the Drugs and Magic Remedies Act (DMR Act). A large number of these advertisements were digital, i.e,. advertisers’ own websites carrying the objectionable claims and visuals.
For the food & beverages (F&B) sector, the CCC found a couple of well-known brands referring to ayurvedic or herbal ingredients known for their memory enhancing properties; however, the associated claims were not substantiated. A popular cooking oil was making claims regarding the oil being 'Lite' and 'Less absorbent' without any robust technical support data. An A-2 cow milk brand was projecting its products to have some unique immunity benefits or miraculous effects that were not substantiated by any scientific rationale or clinical evidence.
Additionally, a couple of brands were making improper use of the FSSAI logo implying that the product has been tested / approved / endorsed by FSSAI. This was also in violation of the FSSAI advisory against such use which is not in the prescribed format.
Over the past one year, in the F&B sector alone, ASCI’s CCC examined over 300 advertisements for misleading claims. This was a result of the co-regulation model under which FSSAI had given ASCI a mandate for comprehensive Suo Motu surveillance of potentially misleading advertisements in print media and television. Such arrangement provides a win-win for stakeholders wherein self-regulatory organisations ensure a better advertising ecosystem and the regulators can intervene only when necessary, thus bringing synergies in efficiency.
HEALTHCARE - Total of 83 advertisements complained against
Direct Complaints (58 advertisements)
Suo Motu Surveillance by ASCI (25 advertisements)
EDUCATION - Total of 33 advertisements complained against
Direct Complaints (One advertisements)
Suo Motu Surveillance by ASCI (32 advertisements)
FOOD AND BEVERAGES - Total of ten advertisements complained against
Direct Complaints (Four advertisements)
Suo Motu Surveillance by ASCI (Six advertisements)
PERSONAL CARE - Total of One advertisement complained against
Direct Complaints (One advertisement)
OTHERS: Total of 18 advertisements complained against
Direct Complaints (Eight advertisements)
Suo Motu Surveillance by ASCI (10 advertisements)
The advertisements listed below were complained against by general public or by industry members. Of the 140 advertisements, 34 cases were informally resolved as the advertisers’ ensured prompt corrective action immediately post receiving the complaints. Complaints against 72 advertisements were upheld by the CCC. Of these 72 advertisements, 58 belonged to healthcare sector and personal-care sector each, and eight to the ‘Others’ category.
1. Sahajanand Life Sciences Pvt. Ltd. (JointAid Oil and JointAid Spray): The advertisement’s claim, “Trusted by Doctors, Physiotherapists and Lakhs of families” is misleading by implication that the medical community of doctors and physiotherapists are recommending the product. The second claim, “100% Natural” for JointAid Spray is false and misleading by ambiguity. Additionally, the claim, “Developed by DR” when seen in conjunction with the visual of a stethoscope, was inadequately substantiated and is misleading by ambiguity and implication, and is likely to lead to grave or widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers.
2. Lord Dhanvantari Ayurvedic Hospital: The advertisement (in Hindi), claiming cure of knee pain and joint pain by showing similar testimonials and same X-ray reports for two separate individual patients and claiming progress on first day of treatment, and treatment after three and six months. These claims were not substantiated with supporting clinical evidence and are misleading by gross exaggeration and exploit consumers’ lack of knowledge and are likely to lead to grave widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers.
Food & Beverage
1. Parle Products Pvt. Ltd (Parle Magix Biscuit): The advertisement (TVC) shows a kid dressed in the police uniform pulling the trigger and firing a bullet (through an audio cue) at the shopkeeper saying in angry tone “Koi bhi cream biscuit Magix ki jagah chipkaoge”. The humorous TVC, though not objectionable, manifests a dangerous practice, exploits the vulnerability of minors and more importantly encourages minors to emulate the modus operandi of any crime.
2. Gujarat Co-Operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd (Amul Memory Milk-Tropical Fruit): The advertisement’s claims 'Milk with goodness of Ayurveda' and 'Contains various Ayurvedic herbs that are traditionally known to boost memory', were not substantiated as the advertiser did not provide data of any scientific rationale or published literature references to support the claimed benefits. The claims are misleading by exaggeration.
1. Catapult Classes: The advertisement’s claims, “CAT 2019 and 2018 Toppers”, and “Maximum 99+ Percentilers in Lucknow are from CaTaPult” with photographs of students and their secured percentile were not substantiated with supporting evidence. The claim (in Hindi), 'IIM jaana hai toh CATaPult aana hai' and 'Sure shot entry into IIMs' (If you want to go to IIM then you must come to CATapult), were not substantiated with supporting evidence of their students who were successfully admitted in IIMs across the country. The claims are misleading by exaggeration and are likely to lead to grave or widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers.
1. MARICO LTD - True Roots Botanical Hair Tonic: In the advertisement, celebrity Radhika Apte was featured endorsing the product with claims like ““Stop new grey hair”, “Jo naye safed balon ka aana roke, jad se”, “True roots ke 100 % natural extracts balonke jadonme jakar melanin bhadaye. 90 days tak regularly lagayen taki safed balon ka aana band ho jaye”, “Safed baalon ka jaldi aana jad se rokiye, with TRUEROOTS.”, “No New Greys in 90 days, get rid of premature grey hairs from the root”. These claims were not adequately substantiated. While the product may cause darkening of grey hair by virtue of Kesh Ranjak ingredients the claims were found to be misleading by ambiguity and implication. The graphic in the advertisement (TVC) and on the pack depicting grey hair turning black was considered to be a misrepresentation of actual product action. The advertisements were in violation of the ASCI Guidelines for Celebrities in advertising and ASCI Guidelines for disclaimers in advertising as the disclaimers in the TVC / YouTube advertisements were not in the same language as that of the voice over (Hindi).
1. One97 Communications Ltd. (PayTM): The advertisement claimed, “Win upto Rs 100 crores of Gold. No KYC Needed. Assured Gold Back on First Transfer”. The claim of “No KYC Needed” is misleading by omission and ambiguity. The second claim “UPI money transfers on PAYTM - Win up to rupees 100 crores of Gold” was not substantiated as the advertiser did not provide evidence of the customers who have benefitted by the said offer, nor any details regarding the modality of the offer. The claim is misleading by omission that the offer is subject to terms and conditions and is likely to lead to grave or widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers.
2. One97 Communications Ltd. (PayTM): The advertisement’s claim on their website “Rupees 50,000 redeemable on purchase of diamond precious jewellery with diamond jewellery voucher worth rupees 50,000” was misleading by omission of additional terms and conditions of cashback offer. The CCC was of the opinion that the said terms and conditions should have been stated upfront in the advertisement. The website advertisement is likely to lead to grave or widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers.
3. Honda Moturcycle and Scooter India P. Ltd (Honda): The advertisement’s claim (in Tamil) , “0% interest”, was misleading by omission and failed to mention that the offer was subject to 50% payment on purchase of the vehicle. The claim is likely to lead to grave or widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers.
4. Vivo Mobile India Pvt. Ltd. (Vivo V11 Pro): The advertisement’s the claim, “Dual Rear Camera with Dual Pixel Technology”, was not substantiated, and misleading by exaggeration. The advertiser did not provide any technical data or test reports for Vivo V11 Pro having feature of dual rear camera with good picture quality.
Suo Motu Surveillance by ASCI for Misleading Advertisement
The advertisements were picked up through ASCI's suo-motu surveillance of print and TV media via the National Advertisement Monitoring Services (NAMS) project. Out of 103 advertisements, 29 were informally resolved wherein the advertisers promptly confirmed that the advertisement are being withdrawn immediately post receiving the complaints. Of the 103 advertisements, complaints against 73 advertisements were upheld. Of these 73 advertisements, 32 belonged to the Education sector, 25 to Healthcare, 6 to Food and Beverages sector and 10 belonged to the 'Others' category.
Bhodhayan Coaching, Vidyapeeth Defence & Sports Academy, Reverberation Films (Removes acting studio), The Shri Ram Universal School, Angel's Paradise
Complaints against advertisements of 27 other educational institutes are upheld mainly because of unsubstantiated claims and/or misleading claims that they provide 100% placement/100% placement assistance AND/OR they claim to be the No.1 in their respective fields.
The following 14 advertisements were considered to be, prima facie, in violation of The Drugs & Magic Remedies (DMR) Act.
Ganga Ayurvedic Clinic, Borvankar Polyclinic, Dhanwantari Ayurveda, Chetak Clinic, Hero Clinic, Dr Ayurveda/Dr Ayurveda Power Prash, Paul Pharmacy /Paras Range of Products, Repl India/Super Sonic capsule, Ganga Grow up Ayurvedic Powder, Elan Impex/ReliefeonVini Pharma/ Vini Diabtonixx Capsule, Yuktamukhi Capsule & Gel, Dr Dixit's Accupuncture, Venkateshwar Homeopathic Clinic.