Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has upheld complaints against 130 advertisements, terming them as contradictory and misleading. The complaints on companies include names like Vodafone, Reliance Communications and Amazon. The Customer Complaints Council (CCC) of Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) claimed to have received 199 complaints in the month itself. ASCI is a self-regulatory organisation for the advertising industry to monitor and maintain the principles and practices of advertising in the interest of consumers and the general public. ASCI was established in the year 1985, and it has been recognised by several Government bodies including the Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA), Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). They have partnered with the agency to address all misleading advertisements in their respective sectors. This time, the advertisement watchdog upheld 73 in the ‘Healthcare’ category, 30 in the ‘Education’ category, 13 in the ‘Food & Beverages’ category, four in ‘Telecommunication’ sector and three in the ‘Personal care’ category, and seven from others. Here is why the major brands were pulled up this time.
Vodafone: India’s third largest telecom company was pulled up, regarding the limit of 300 minutes/day as mentioned in the advertisement, the claim, “Rs 328 + Unlimited Local / STD Calls for 28 days”, has been termed as misleading. The advertisement contravened the ASCI Code as well as Clause 1 of ASCI Guidelines for Disclaimers.
Which guideline did Vodafone violate? “A disclaimer can expand or clarify a claim, make qualifications, or resolve ambiguities, to explain the claim in further details, but should not contradict the material claim made or contradict the main message conveyed by the advertiser or change the dictionary meaning of the words used in the claim as received or perceived by a consumer.”
Amazon: Action has been taken over complaints against e-commerce giant Amazon too. It found that Amazon ads for ‘Woodland Wallet for Men’ claiming to be genuine were not “substantiated” and “is misleading by ambiguity” as it was not “able to ensure that the product is genuine.” It was viewed that the disclaimer, “Terms & Conditions apply” is not relevant and in fact is contradictory to the claim of “100% Original Products”. While Amazon asserts that they have a robust system in place to prevent unscrupulous sellers from operating through their platform, in this instance Amazon was not able to ensure that the product is genuine, according to ASCI. Based on the evidence provided by the complainant, it was concluded that the claim, “100% Original Products” is not substantiated and is misleading by ambiguity.
Which ASCI guideline did Amazon violate? “A disclaimer should not attempt to hide material information with respect to the claim, the omission/absence of which is likely to make the advertisement deceptive or conceal its commercial intent.”
Reliance Communications: The complaint against the company was upheld for two instances, according to ASCI:
1. The advertisement’s claim, “Fastest 4G Network”, was not substantiated and is misleading by exaggeration, ASCI said.
2. The advertisement’s claim, “Truly Unlimited Local + STD calls only on RC 152 28 days”, is not substantiated and is misleading by ambiguity.
Meanwhile, other complaints that were upheld by ASCI include names like, HDFC ERGO General Insurance, Foodpanda, and Emirates Airlines. Emirates Airline, however, responded by denying the allegations. Essa Ahmad, VP- India & Nepal said. “All Emirates communications and advertisements on special offers state the application of terms and conditions in a clear manner….we have submitted a written response to ASCI on the above matter.”