During October 2019, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) investigated complaints against 344 advertisements, of which 80 advertisements were promptly withdrawn by the advertisers on receipt of communication from ASCI. The independent Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) of ASCI evaluated 264 advertisements, of which complaints against 137 advertisements were upheld. Of these 137 advertisements, 89 belonged to the education sector, 29 belonged to the healthcare sector, four to personal care, two to the food & beverages sector, and 13 were from the ‘others’ category.
In the CCC deliberations, the most common reason for upholding complaints was that the advertisements were misleading and exploited consumers’ lack of knowledge. This was followed by violations of ASCI Guidelines for Advertising of Educational Institutions and Programs. The other reasons for complaints to be upheld were superlative claims and unsubstantiated claims of having won awards.
Among various advertisements that were examined, the CCC observed that a top cricketer celebrity was endorsing the “Instant payment” claim being made by a well-known online platform for sale of second-hand cars. An international automotive company, in their radio ad, implied that consumers should not care for traffic rules hence showing a complete disregard for road safety. In the personal care category, a renowned personal care company founded by a beauty expert mentioned SPF values that they could not substantiate by providing in vivo support data.
A widely used sanitary napkin brand advertised its product to have a long-lasting cooling effect, which was unsubstantiated. Advertisements by hospitals offering IVF treatments were pulled up for making misleading claims regarding their success rates. An internet restaurant company’s claim of being the “World’s largest internet restaurant company” was considered to be misleading in the absence of relevant verifiable support data.
The CCC also came across a significant number of advertisements pertaining to the education sector with the advertisers making unsubstantiated and superlative claims of being the most trusted, No. 1 or winning awards.
Rohit Gupta, Chairman, ASCI said “Building on the momentum of the fine work done by the ASCI Secretariat in the past few years, for the year 2020 our resolve is to further strengthen the advertising ecosystem. This would be by means of new initiatives, enhanced processes and new guidelines that we plan to roll out in the coming months. These initiatives would not only benefit consumers but would also result in enhanced participation of industry members in effectively practicing self-regulation in advertising.”
The advertisements given below were complained against by the general public or by industry members. Of the 149 advertisements complained against, 11 advertisements were promptly withdrawn by the advertiser on receiving communication from ASCI. For the remaining 138 advertisements, complaints against 12 advertisements were upheld by the CCC. Five advertisements belonged to the Healthcare sector and seven from the ‘Others’ category. 26 advertisements were not considered to be objectionable or in contravention of the ASCI Code.
The following advertisements in the healthcare sector were found to be misleading that exploit consumers’ lack of knowledge and could lead to widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers.
- Aanjan Path Labs & Allergy Testing Center: The print advertisement’s claim “Psoriasis, Stomach Ache, Diarrhoea, Sore Throat, Cough – The only option for allergy treatment is the diagnosis” was misleading. The advertiser incorrectly mentioned all the above ailments to be of allergen nature whereas Psoriasis is an immune system disorder, allergy as a cause of abdominal pain and diarrhea is very limited as only a minority of patients are affected by this (6 – 8% in children below 3 years & 3% of adults) and such pain and diarrhea are mostly due to infections. Further, sore throat and cough are also due to other reasons such as infections in the majority of the cases. The claim “The only option for allergy treatment is the diagnosis” was not considered to be valid.
- Sangam Ayurveda (1 Shot Dandruff Killer): The advertisement’s claim on the product packaging “1 Shot Dandruff Killer” which was also the name of the product and had the corresponding symbol encircled “TM”, was not substantiated. The advertiser did not provide any product specific information such as a copy of Product approval license and Product composition details, nor any scientific or technical rationale for the product claim or copy of the application applied with the trademark registry. In the absence of evidence of a registered trademark, the product name is a claim which needs to be substantiated with robust anti-dandruff efficacy data.
The CCC found that the claims made in the following advertisements were misleading, exploit consumers’ lack of knowledge and can lead to widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers.
- CARS24 Services Pvt. Ltd. (cars24.com): The advertisement’s claim “Get Instant Payment”, featuring cricketer MS Dhoni was considered misleading. It was observed that the advertiser offers both, an “instant payment” facility and a “deferred payment” facility for the sale of cars. However, as per the FAQs provided by the advertiser if a customer avails the “instant payment” facility a fee of Rs. 1000 is levied. The advertisement creates the impression that every sale of cars would be eligible for “Instant payment” which is not the case. Additionally, there was no adequate evidence provided of the celebrities due diligence, hence violating ASCI’s Guidelines for Celebrities in Advertising as well.
- Kia Motors India (Kia Seltos): The radio advertisement’s claims “He doesn’t play by the rules. He plays with them.” and “Inspired by the badass in you.” imply that one shouldn’t care about the (traffic) rules. It manifests a disregard for safety and encourages negligence.
SUO MOTU Surveillance by ASCI FOR MISLEADING ADVERTISEMENTS
The advertisements listed below were picked up through ASCI’s Suo Motu surveillance of Print and TV media through the National Advertisement Monitoring Services (NAMS) project. Out of 195 advertisements that were picked, 69 cases were resolved immediately wherein the advertisers confirmed that the advertisements were being withdrawn post receiving the complaints. Of the 126 advertisements examined by the CCC, complaints against 125 advertisements were upheld. Of these 125 advertisements, 89 belonged to the Education sector, 24 advertisements belonged to the Healthcare sector, four belonged to the Personal Care category, two belonged to the F&B category and six fell in the “Others” category.
The CCC found that the claims made in the following seven advertisements were misleading by exaggeration, exploited consumers’ lack of knowledge and could lead to widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers. A large number of superlative claims were unsubstantiated. These advertisements also violated ASCI’s Guidelines for Advertising of Educational Institutions and Programs.
- One Day World: The print advertisement’s claim “Most Trusted One Day Institute of North India” was not substantiated with any market survey data, or with verifiable comparative data of the advertiser’s institute and other similar institutes in North India, to prove that their institute is more trusted compared to all the others for providing training for the career courses claimed, or through a third-party validation.
- Nagaji Group of Institutions-Nagaji Institute of Technology & Management: The print advertisement’s claim “7 National & 3 International Award-Winning Institute” was not substantiated the advertiser did not provide copy of the ten award certificates, reference of the awards received such as the year, source, category, the basis of the awards and the details about the awarding bodies.
The CCC found that the claims made in the following eight advertisements were misleading that exploit consumers’ lack of knowledge and could lead to widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers. Several of these claims were misleading by exaggeration.
- Urkid fertility Private Limited (Maa IVF): The print advertisement’s claim “Higher success rate” was not substantiated with any market survey data or with any verifiable comparative data of the advertiser’s centre and other IVF centres, to prove that they have a higher success rate in IVF treatment, or through a third-party validation. The CCC was of the opinion that it is not possible for the advertiser to conduct a comparative study to generate claim support data for this superiority claim given the nature of the healthcare services sector and a number of such IVF Centres.
- Sri Krishna Clinic: The print advertisement’s claim “Successful treatment for piles, fistula, and fissure without operation with one injection” was not substantiated with supporting clinical evidence. The advertiser did not provide details of the medicines used in the injection and any details regarding their approval status by the regulatory authorities.
- Unicharm India Pvt Ltd (Sofy Cool Napkins): The television voice-over claims, “Coolpad technology that gives long-lasting cool feeling and keeps irritation-free” and “India’s First Cool Napkins” were inadequately substantiated. The CCC did not agree with the Advertiser’s rationale that “Irritation Free” refers to “mental comfort.” The claim of the Product providing a “cool” feeling was not conclusively proven among the majority of the users. There is no support for the claim “long-lasting cool feeling”.
- Shahnaz Husain Group (Shahnaz Husain Total Care Day Long Sun Block-SPF 25): The print advertisement’s claim “SPF 25” was inadequately substantiated. It was observed that the advertiser produced a certificate of analysis of an in-house test report and excerpts of an external test report. The external test report indicated SPF value for the test product to be 25.2. The CCC was of the opinion that the SPF values are required to be conclusively proven for the in-vivo situation.
Food and Beverage
- Sresta Natural Bio-Products (24 Mantra Organic) – The print advertisement’s claim “India’s #1 Organic Brand” was inadequately substantiated as the advertiser failed to provide the latest data to substantiate the claim of no.1 organic brand. The advertiser provided a report of 2016, where they held a 37% of market share in the packed organic food in the market and a 7.8% share in the packed organic beverages market. The CCC was of the opinion that due to the availability of more market players in the organic food sector, the advertiser ought to have provided the latest data for this claim to be tenable.
- Nirmal Traders Tea: The print advertisement’s claim “The Best Tea” was not substantiated with market survey data or any verifiable comparative data of the advertiser’s product and other similar tea products to prove that they are better than all the rest, or through independent third-party validation. Additionally, the second claim “Fresher and Gives More Pep” were comparative claims and were not substantiated with any verifiable comparison of the advertiser’s product and other competitor tea products to prove that their product performs better in terms of freshness and providing pep or through independent third-party validation.
The CCC found that the claims in the following six advertisements were misleading and exploited consumers’ lack of knowledge which could lead to widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers.
- Rebel Foods: The print advertisements claim “World’s Largest Internet Restaurant Company” was not substantiated. The CCC opined that news clippings provided by an advertiser are not conclusive and reliable evidence for market leadership claims. The advertiser should have provided verifiable comparative data or market survey data of their company in terms of worldwide turn over or market share by value/volume and other similar internet restaurant companies to prove that they are the largest.
- Shankus Water Park & Resort: The print advertisement’s claim “India’s First Water Park” was not substantiated with any verifiable comparative data of the advertiser’s park and other similar water parks in India, to prove that they are the first to introduce a water park in India, or through a third-party validation. The second claim “Best Water Park of Gujarat by Gujarat Tourism” was also not substantiated with the copy of the award certificate, details of the awarding body, details of the criteria for granting the award, references of the award received such as the year, source, category, survey methodology, parameters considered, questionnaires used, names of other similar water parks that were part of the survey and outcome of the survey.