During the months of August and September 2019, ASCI investigated complaints against 564 advertisements, of which 179 advertisements were promptly withdrawn by the advertisers on receipt of communication from ASCI. The independent Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) of ASCI evaluated 385 advertisements, of which complaints against 344 advertisements were upheld. Of these 344 advertisements, 259 belonged to the education sector, 50 belonged to the healthcare sector, eight to personal care, eight to the food & beverages sector, and 19 were from the ‘others’ category.
There were several prominent brands in the Food and Beverage sector making comparative claims regarding the product composition, taste preferences, health benefits or market leadership. Many of the claims were not adequately substantiated. The CCC also considered the comparisons to be unfairly denigrating the entire category in which the advertiser brands were competing in.
A leading dairy brand presented its butter cookies to be superior due to the presence of 25% butter and 0% vegetable oil. However, they made a sweeping statement that “other” butter cookies contain only 0.3% to 3% butter and 20% to 22% Vegetable Oil without presenting any verifiable evidence.
Another snack brand, endorsed by a prominent cricket celebrity claimed that up to 60% of people said that their baked snack was tastier than other fried snack brands. However, this claim was not conclusively proven. The same celebrity also endorsed a leadership claim for a food supplement brand “No. 1 Supplement for Men”. As this ranking was achieved in the UK and not in India, the claim was considered to be misleading.
Advertisement by an edible oil brand implied that consumers should switch from their current heart oil to their product as it takes “Complete care of their heart”. Their claim stating that consumer’s current heart oil cannot fight against heart problems was considered to be disparaging as well as it seemed likely to scare the consumer into buying the product.
ASCI continues to receive consumer complaints regarding misleading advertisements in the Food and Beverages sector. One complaint was against a brand positioned to be for diabetics and pre-diabetics.
The CCC opined that even though the product contained low GI sugar, it still was sugar and should not have been positioned “diabetes-friendly” as it was likely to do more harm.
A popular instant noodle brand did not mention in their communication if the noodles were fried or not, as required by FSSAI. One of India’s oldest biscuit manufacturers claimed “33% extra” on their product packaging, without mentioning the basis of comparison alongside the offer claim.
Rohit Gupta, Chairman, ASCI, said “Recently as per media reports, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) issued a statement that the advertisers must desist from making misleading claims and that the food companies could be liable to pay a fine of up to INR 10 lakhs. Consequences of misleading advertising are grave, not only for the public but also for advertisers as it damages their reputation and breaks consumers’ trust in their products.
“ASCI encourages advertisers to follow the ASCI Code for self-regulation in advertising and Guidelines for Food and Beverages sector in particular so that all stakeholder interests are taken care of,” Gupta said.
The advertisements given below were complained against by the general public or by industry members. Of the 115 advertisements complained against, 32 advertisements were promptly withdrawn by the advertiser on receiving communication from ASCI. For the remaining 83 advertisements, complaints against 43 advertisements were upheld by the CCC. 17 advertisements belonged to the Healthcare sector, eight belonged to the Education sector, six belonged to the Food & Beverages sector, two from the Personal Care sector and 10 from the ‘Others’ category. 40 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.
- Starkey Laboratories India Pvt. Ltd. (Atharva Speech and hearing Care Pvt Ltd. – Hearing aid): The print advertisement’s claim “The World’s Best Hearing Aid Costing Rs. 3.5 Lacs Merely at The Price of Our Entry Level Model”, was not substantiated. The CCC observed that the advertisement promoted hearing aid worth Rs. 3.5 lakhs at a lower price. However, the advertiser did not substantiate that their products were “World’s best” as claimed.
- T.A. Majeed’s Fair Pharma: The print advertisement promotes the treatment of cancer patients who have difficulty swallowing. The claim “By taking our herbal medicine, this problem in swallowing food can be solved. This problem is brought about by viruses that cross Blood-Brain Barrier”, was not substantiated as the advertiser did not provide any details regarding the medicines used for the treatment and their approval status by the regulatory authorities. The advertiser also did not provide any clinical evidence nor any scientific rationale or published clinical literature references to support the claim.
The CCC found that the claims made in the following two advertisements were misleading by exaggeration and could lead to widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers. The advertisements also violated ASCI’s Guidelines for Advertising for Educational Institutions and Programs.
- CL Educate Ltd. (Career Launcher – CAT 2018 result): The print advertisements claim “28,603 IIM calls in CAT 2018 and counting”, and “28,655 IIM calls in CAT 2018”, were inadequately substantiated and are misleading by ambiguity. The CCC observed that the data validated by the CA certificate was for the number of interview calls received by 80 students; however, the reference to IIM was missing in the certificate, contrary to what is claimed in the advertisements. Furthermore, the claimed figures of 28,603 and 28,655 appeared to be unrealistic.
- KISH Academy (http://kishacademy.org): The website advertisement’s claim “The Most Successful Institute in India” was not substantiated with any verifiable comparative data of the advertiser’s institute and other similar institutes in India, to prove that they are more successful in terms of results and placing their students in IIMs than all other similar institutes.
- Dabur India Ltd (Odomos Fabric Roll-on): The product packaging claim, “Just four Dots on Your Clothes, Mosquitoes Won’t Come Close” when seen in conjunction with the visual of the girl surrounded by a blue bubble with no mosquitoes inside and several outsides, giving an impression of 100% protection was inadequately substantiated. The product provides only a moderate degree of repellency (4% to 40%, which is less than half). On the claim of the safety of the product, the CCC observed that the advertiser did not provide any test report of safety for the product when in proximity to human skin.
- ITC Limited (Fiama Scents Bodywash): The print advertisement’s claim, “with just a simple touch anytime, anywhere”, was inadequately substantiated and is misleading by ambiguity. The test data provided, was not adequate to conclusively prove that a forearm lab test on a small number of panel members can be extrapolated to a “real life” bathing, towel drying and post bathing situation to adequately substantiate “capsule deposition all over the body and (fragrance capsules) bursting on touch over a period of 8 hours on dry skin”.
Food and Beverage
- Parle Products Limited (Parle Happy Happy Biscuits): The back panel of product pack claims “Net Weight: 60g + 20g* Extra = 80g with MRP Rs.10.00”, and front panel of pack claims “33%* extra”. Though offer claim of “33% extra” on 60g pack was not considered objectionable, its presentation on pack was misleading by omission as it does not mention the basis of comparison alongside the offer claim, in font size equal to or more than 25% of the font size of “33% extra” claim. The advertisement also violates ASCI Guidelines for Disclaimers which states that for the comparative claim, the basis of comparison must be stated in a font size that is at least 25% of the size of the claim, which is being qualified and positioned immediately next to or immediately below the claim.
- Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd. (Amul Butter Cookies): The print and twitter advertisement claims “Other butter cookies contain 0.3% to 3% butter and Amul Butter Cookies contain 25% Amul butter” and “Other butter cookies have 20% to 22% Vegetable Oil and Amul Butter Cookies contain 0% Vegetable Oil” were not substantiated. The advertiser makes generalized claims by indicating the “Other” Butter Cookies rather than “Some” Butter cookies. Additionally, the advertiser did not mention the source of such data or the basis of comparison in the advertisement. The claims unfairly denigrates the entire category of butter cookie products.
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.
- ARG Outlier Media (Republic TV): The Ad-mailer’s leadership claim was misleading and contravened BARC India Ratings – Principles of Fair & Permissible Usage. The BARC Principles emphatically do not allow reporting of any rating data as percentages. As per TRAI’s website, Mirror Now is an English/Hindi News channel, and deleting a major player in the English News genre (Mirror Now) from the computation constitutes a false claim.
- MakeMyTrip India Pvt. Ltd: The YouTube advertisement featuring Bollywood celebrities Alia Bhatt and Ranveer Singh that claimed “60 Minutes Resolution Else Free Stay” was misleading by ambiguity, omission, and implication. The advertisement categorically states that “MakeMyTrip provides 24X7 Hotline and resolution in 60 minutes for any problem for hotel booking….” It makes a blanket claim of “hotel” implying any / all hotel and does not specify on “MMT Assured Hotels only”. The advertiser did not provide any evidence showing that the celebrities had done due diligence prior to the endorsement, hence violating ASCI’s Guidelines for Celebrities in Advertising as well.
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 449 advertisements that were picked, 147 cases were resolved immediately wherein the advertisers confirmed that the advertisements were being withdrawn post receiving the complaints. Of the 302 advertisements examined by the CCC, complaints against 301 advertisements were upheld. Of these 301 advertisements, 251 belonged to the Education sector, 33 advertisements belonged to the Healthcare sector, six belonged to the Personal Care category, two belonged to the F&B category and nine fell in the “Others” category.
The CCC found that the claims made in the following 29 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.
- Adarsh Rajasthan PG College: The print advertisement’s claim “Fees will be refunded if a student does not get selected in guarantee batch”, was not substantiated with supporting evidence of the students who were selected in defence forces and in the railway industry, and of fee refunds issued to non-selected students.
- AAA College of Engineering & Technology: The print advertisement’s claim “100% scholarship worth 4 Crores” was not substantiated with supporting evidence or through an independent audit or verification certificate. The advertiser did not provide supporting evidence of 100% scholarships/part scholarship availed by any of their students, financial provision made by the institute to grant such scholarship, information regarding the amount of scholarship and the total number of scholarships being offered and the criteria used for the same.
The CCC found that the claims made in the following 12 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.
- Jolly Health Care – Jolly Tulsi 51 Drops: The television advertisement’s claim, “Increase Immunity and Saves/Protects Form Diseases” featuring celebrity Hrithik Roshan was not substantiated with robust clinical evidence of product efficacy and is misleading. The advertiser, promoting an ayurvedic liquid extracts of five types of tulsi oil for increasing immunity and protection from diseases; did not provide product specific details such as copy of product label, copy of product approval license, product composition details, and evidence of the ingredients present in the product, nor any relevant extracts of ayurvedic references in support of the claim. The advertisement also violated ASCI’s Guidelines for Celebrities in Advertising as there was no evidence provided to show that the celebrity did due diligence prior to the endorsement, to ensure that all descriptions, claims, and comparisons made in the advertisement are capable of substantiation.
- Sadhana Clinic: The print advertisement’s claims, “Remove diseases with Immunize therapy (Allopathy)”, “Any type of skin diseases of incurable allergy-like Psoriasis is cured of roots with Immunize therapy by increasing immunity power in blood”, and “Stubborn diseases like skin allergy, joints pain, and frozen shoulder are being cured”, were not substantiated with supporting clinical evidence or with treatment efficacy data. The Claim, “Diseases of thousands of patients have been cured”, was not substantiated with supporting evidence of patients who were treated by the advertiser’s clinic, or through third-party validation.
- Johnson & Johnson Private Limited (Stayfree Secure): The print advertisement’s claim, “Absorbs 2X Faster” was misleading. The test report shows that the 2x claim is established for the test fluid as compared to the advertiser’s old product. The TVC violated ASCI’s Guidelines for Disclaimers as well; the basis of comparison should not be stated/addressed as a footnote but be present in the claim itself or in a font size at least 25% of the size of the claim and positioned immediately next to or immediately below the claim.
- Raymond Consumer Care Private Limited- Kamasutra Spark Deo Spray: The television commercial and pack artwork claim “No 1 Deo Nationwide” was considered misleading to mention the category and source of the claim. The on-pack disclaimer ‘KS Spark is India’s No.1 selling variant as per a leading research audit firm’ did not mention that the data pertains to aerosol deos “for men” – which is as per the data provided by the advertiser. The source of the data i.e. the name of the audit firm was also not disclosed. The advertisements violated the ASCI Guidelines for Disclaimers.
Food and Beverage
- Cargill India Pvt. Ltd (Nature Fresh Acti Heart): The television advertisements’ claim, “Your old heart oil cannot fight against heart problems, Switch to Nature Fresh Acti Heart that takes complete care of your heart” was misleading. The advertisement asserts that “your old heart oil cannot fight against heart problems”, however the advertiser did not provide any data to establish that the competitor oil blends in the market have no beneficial effect on heart health nor did they provide any comparative data of their product and other cold press oils or refined oil blends in India, to prove that their product is better at fighting against heart problems. The advertisement disparages the entire category of blended edible oils and particularly those that have taken “Heart health” positioning. For the references made to blood pressure and heart problems in the advertisement, it was depicted that even healthy people having heart issues and implied that the issues would be resolved if consumers switch to Nature Fresh Acti Heart – the claim seemed likely to scare the consumers into buying the product. Additionally, the claim was not in line with FSSAI’s “Nutrient function claims” permitted for Rice Bran oil. The voice-over claiming that the product “takes complete care of your heart” is contradictory to the disclaimer that references that the product “helps” in taking care of the heart; the disclaimers were also not legible and in violation of the ASCI Guidelines for Disclaimers.
- Wrap It Up: The print advertisement’s claim, “World’s Most Favourite Wraps”, was not substantiated with any verifiable comparative data or any market survey data of the advertiser’s brand of wraps and other similar wrap brands worldwide, to prove that their wraps are more preferred or favored brand, or through a third-party validation.
The CCC found that the claims in the following nine advertisements were misleading and exploited consumers’ lack of knowledge which could lead to widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers.
- Arvind Limited (Wrangler Inficool Apparel): The television advertisement’s claims “Gives Greater Breathability” and “Fast Drying” were inadequately substantiated. The advertiser did not have complete claim support data available with them prior to making the claims, hence in the absence of data the claim is misleading
- Madura Fashion & Lifestyle (Van Heusen Anti-Bacterial Innerwear): The print advertisement’s claim “For non-stop freshness” and “The Anti-Bacterial Innerwear”, were inadequately substantiated. It was observed that the amount of Silver Coating was not mentioned for any of the fabrics. For all the fabrics, the test was done at 0 wash and 20 washes. However, there was concern regarding the residual efficacy of the active ingredient in real-life situations posts multiple wash cycles with the use of solutions containing oxidizers such as hypochlorides or Detergents. The claim of “non-stop freshness” requires taking into account the impact of the combination of malodorous compounds produced by microorganisms along with sweat. This effect is required to be demonstrated for the product during the period of use (over several hours) and over a period of several weeks post multiple wash cycles. The claims were inadequately substantiated misleading by exaggeration and implication.