The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has rapped yoga guru Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurved Ltd. for “false and misleading” advertisements that also “denigrate” rival products.
The Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) of the ad watchdog, which has released a statement on the complaints it dealt with in March, also found three of Patanjali’s product advertisements indulging in “ambiguity” and making claims that were described as “gross exaggeration”.
The CCC received 156 complaints against ads during the month, and upheld 90 – including those by Patanjali – under categories such as “education”, “healthcare and personal care”, “food and beverages” and others.
Under the “healthcare and personal care” category, the CCC pulled up the ad for Patanjali Kesh Kanti Natural Hair Cleanser & Oil, describing as “false and misleading by ambiguity” and “gross exaggeration” its claim that “mineral oil is carcinogenic in nature and may cause cancer”.
In the “food and beverages” segment, it found that the ad for ‘Patanjali Kachi Ghani Mustard Oil’ made claims that were “misleading” and “not substantiated”.
The ad had claimed that, “Other than Kacchi Ghani process most of the other edible refined oils and mustard oil are made using neurotoxin Hexagon solvent extraction process. To make profits at the cost of consumers’ health many companies mix cheap palm oil in mustard oil”.
The CCC ruled that the ad “unfairly denigrates other oils/mustard oil”.
The ad had prompted the edible oil industry body, the Solvent Extractors Association of India (SEAI), to file complaints with the food regulator, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), and ASCI.
In its letters to FSSAI and ASCI, the SEAI requested the regulators to “take action” against Patanjali, and alleged that the company’s ad for ‘Kacchi Ghani Mustard Oil’ was not in good taste.
The CCC also found issues with the ad for ‘Patanjali Herbal Washing Powder, Cake and Dishwash Bar’, which claimed they were used by “millions of housewives”. The watchdog said the claim was “not substantiated”.
It further said that there was little evidence of the cleaning benefit of its professed ingredients, and declared the claim as “misleading by ambiguity”.
The CCC also said that “the claim, ‘Dish wash bars made with chemicals do clean the utensils but they end up damaging the hands’, was not substantiated and unfairly denigrates dish wash bars directly”.
Patanjali’s ads have come in for criticism in the past. In a recent article, Pushpa M. Bhargava, former vice chairman of the National Knowledge Commission, made a detailed critique of the claims made by a Baba Ramdev ad about treatments for high blood pressure and diabetes.
Bhargava, who founded the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, described as “scientifically absurd” the “implication in the ad that blood pressure and diabetes are caused by viruses”.