The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has upheld complaints against 229 advertisements of 270 advertisements of which more than 100 pertained to advertiser’s websites violating DMR Regulations
In March 2019, ASCI examined complaints against 344 advertisements, advertisers of which ensured prompt corrective action for 74 of the ads once they received the complaints from ASCI. ASCI’s Independent Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) upheld complaints against 229 advertisements out of 270 advertisements evaluated by them.
Of these 229 advertisements, 123 belonged to the healthcare sector, 83 to the education sector, seven to the food & beverages sector, two to personal care, and 14 were from the ‘others’ category.
The largest number of complaints were evaluated in the healthcare sector with more than 100 advertisements being considered to be in potential violation of the Drugs & Magic Remedies (DMR) Regulations.
Majority of these advertisements were on the advertisers’ web-sites promoting products for enhancement of male sexual desire, male sexual performance, female breast enhancement, cancer cure, cure for arthritis, infertility etc. There were several advertisements pertaining clinics and hospitals making unsubstantiated and superlative claims.
In one instance, the advertiser claimed to hold a Limca Book of record for performing the highest number of surgeries in a certain span of time. The claims were inadequately substantiated and were misleading by exaggeration. Another clinic claimed to cure piles in a single dose whereas another proclaimed itself to be the best sexologist in India.
D Shivakumar, Chairman, ASCI said, “ASCI and Ministry of AYUSH have concluded their second year of collaboration in March 2019. Under the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), ASCI was given a mandate for comprehensive Suo Motu surveillance of potentially misleading advertisements in the AYUSH sector and to keep a tab on print and electronic advertisements related to treatments with Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy medicines and potential violations of the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954.
“Over the two years, under the MoU with Ministry of AYUSH, ASCI has looked into over 1200 advertisements of the AYUSH sector. It is important to take cognizance of the growing influence of Digital Media on consumers and the misleading advertisements through various web-sites exploiting consumers’ lack of knowledge.
“As per our data, while there has been a significant decrease in the incidence of misleading advertisements as awareness of the AYUSH-ASCI collaboration is increasing, the joint efforts need to be sustained to effectively curb objectionable advertisements.”
Direct complaints to ASCI
- Aanvii Hearing Centre (Aanvii Hearing Device): The advertisement’s claim, “Signia stiletto, world’s slimmest rechargeable hearing device” was incorrectly worded and misleading by exaggeration.
- Waves Wellness (iBrow 3D Eyebrow enhancement): The advertisement’s claim, “Get your dream eyebrows instantly with India’s 1st brand of 3D eyebrow enhancement services” was misleading by exaggeration. It was observed that prior to advertiser’s brand, there were other brands / clinics in existence offering permanent eye brow shaping services.
- Charak Pharma Pvt. Ltd (Kofol Chewable Tablets) – The advertisement’s claim, “Trusted by Doctors”, was inadequately substantiated as the data provided was not adequate on a statistically significant representative sample size to conclusively prove the claim. The claim is misleading by ambiguity.
- NIIT Ltd: Thee advertisement’s claim, “5000 Assured jobs”, was misleading by exaggeration, ambiguity and implication and since the students were given a provisional offer an “assured job” could not be promised to the students. Claim, “50,000 Students Placed” was not substantiated with authentic supporting data such as detailed list of students who have been placed through their institute in the banking sector, contact details of students for verification, enrolment forms and appointment letters received by the students, nor any independent audit or verification certificate.
FOOD AND BEVERAGE
- Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd (Amul): The advertisement’s claims, (in Guajarati) as translated in English, “Only Amul ghee means a promise of purity” and “Only Amul Ghee is 100% pure, is a promise of 36 lakhs farmers”, stating that “only” Amul is 100% pure and implying that other ghee brands are not, were not substantiated with comparative data of the advertiser’s product and other ghee products. The claims are misleading by implication.
- Ashok & Co. – Pan Bahar Ltd (Pan Bahar Crystal): The radio advertisement’s claim, “World’s first pan masala whose ingredients are still a trade secret”, was not substantiated with any verifiable comparative data worldwide, of the advertiser’s pan masala product and other pan masala products to prove that they were the first whose ingredients are still a trade secret, or through an audited report or third-party validation. The claim “World’s first” is misleading by exaggeration. In radio advertisement, the disclaimer “Chewing Pan Masala can be injurious to health”, was not played at the same speed as the rest of the advertisement.
- Everlove Cosmetics and Beauty Care Pvt Ltd (Baali Ayurved Herbal Hair Oil): The print advertisement’s claims “100% herbal” and “22 Ayurvedic Herbs” for an ayurvedic herbal hair oil was not substantiated; claim “No Side Effects”, was not substantiated with evidence of product safety. Claim “Dermatologist approved” was not substantiated with any data for the product’s approval amongst dermatologists. The visual on the product package showing celebrity Sonali Bendre endorsing the product was found to be in violation of ASCI’s Guidelines for Celebrities in Advertising as the advertiser did not submit any evidence of celebrity’s due diligence. The visual of the celebrity when seen in conjunction with these claims are likely to mislead consumers regarding the product efficacy.
- Colgate – Palmolive (India) Limited: In the TV and YouTube advertisements claim “Bilkul doodh ki tarah Colgate Strong Teeth natural Calcium badhata hai aur aapke datonko banata hai aandar se strong” the claim “Bilkul Dooth ki tarah” and visual representation of numerical equivalence of calcium in both (milk and CDC) and the comparison of action of CDC with that of milk was considered to be incorrect. It is explicitly clear that the Fluoride action on the Saliva helps return of natural Calcium from Saliva to the mineral deficient enamel through the remineralisation process. Therefore, it is explicitly clear that the Toothpaste does not add or increase natural Calcium from within the tooth. The Advertiser’s contention that Milk is shown as an analogy to show how the Toothpaste increases the Calcium in the tooth, cannot be sustained at all, as it is highly misleading. There is no dispute scientifically, no toothpaste can increase Natural Calcium. Even the small quantity of Calcium in the toothpaste is not ingested in the body, hence, it cannot be compared with milk which provides Calcium after ingestion. The disclaimer in the TVC – “Rachanatmak Prastuti. Colgate Dental Cream fluoride action dwara laar se natural calcium badhane main madad karti hai” was in contravention of the ASCI Guidelines for Disclaimers in Advertising. For the claim “Natural Calcium”, the advertiser stated that “Natural Calcium” reference on the front of pack is not with respect to Calcium Carbonate but is with reference to Calcium present in the saliva. The disclaimer corresponding to the asterisk reads as “Helps add Natural Calcium”. There was no reference to saliva as a source for this calcium. This claim was considered to be misleading by omission and implication. The claim distorts facts, exploits consumers’ lack of knowledge and is likely to lead to grave or widespread disappointment. The pack claim was also in contravention of the ASCI Guidelines for Disclaimers.
- Red Chillies Entertainment Pvt Ltd (Film – Zero): The print advertisement promo for Hindi movie `Zero’ showed star ratings given by various publications for the movie. The promo claimed four star ratings by Hindustan, whereas the review article by Hindustan had 2.5 stars rating. Based on this observation and in the absence of comments from the advertiser, the advertisement – promo claiming “Four stars by Hindustan” for the movie `Zero’ was misleading by misrepresentation of facts and exaggeration.
- Tata Motors Ltd (Tata Motors): The comparison made regarding the safety of the vehicle in the advertisement’s claim, “TATA NEXON – INDIA’S SAFEST CAR. Going Swift is not safe for your family” was not factual and was not substantiated, and there is likelihood of the consumer being misled as a result of comparison. The reference made to `Swift’ in the caption, “Going Swift is not safe for your family”, when seen in conjunction with the picture of Maruti Swift car, unfairly denigrated another vehicle in the four wheeler category directly. The claim is misleading by exaggeration and implication.
- Maruti Suzuki India Ltd (Maruti Suzuki): The advertisement’s claims, “Enjoy the month of March with exciting offers from Maruti Suzuki”, and “Bigger Savings” showing images of various models of Maruti Suzuki with their prices, were not substantiated with any supporting verifiable data. The disclaimer stating that the offer was on select car models was not substantiated with a detailed list of the models on which discount was available and evidence of customers who had availed the said offer was not provided. The claim offer was misleading by exaggeration and also contravened ASCI Guidelines for Disclaimers in advertising.
- Godrej Properties Limited (Godrej Air): The advertisement’s claim, “Homes with 10X Enhanced Air Quality” was inadequately substantiated. The test report that was submitted was for the site office and not for a typical flat, where variables like windows and height and wind may affect the results; there could be seasonal variations as well in terms of outdoor and indoor air quality. It was unclear if these were factored in while arriving at the specific numerical claim. The CCC was of the opinion that a site office data cannot be extrapolated to a typical flat or under real life conditions. The advertisement had visuals of outdoor spaces, but no data was provided as regards to outdoor air quality of jogging tracks, garden roof and terrace gardens. The air quality comparison is misleading by ambiguity and implication and the advertisement also contravened ASCI Guidelines for Disclaimers in advertising.
- Vodafone India Ltd (Vodafone Supernet 4G): The advertisement’s claim, “Adding a tower every hour in crowded places”, was not substantiated with any verifiable data of the hourly roll-out of the towers/sites in crowded places, or through an independent third party validation. The claim is misleading by exaggeration.
- Zee Business (Only One Awaaz Ruled the Budget Day): In the advertisement’s claim, “Only One Awaaz Ruled the Budget Day, Zee Business”, the data provided in the ad-mailer and qualified with the disclaimer is not a direct output of BARC’s BMW User Interface and the same is not permitted for public use. Using a data point by extrapolating or interpolating BMW outputs is not permitted by the BARC Guidelines. Claims, “While the National Budget Day ushered de-growth for CNBC Awaaz, CNBC TV18 in terms of TVT’s, our performance continued to shoot off the charts” and “We are India’s most preferred Business News Channel” were inadequately substantiated, distorting facts and were misleading by exaggeration.
- ARG Outlier Media (Republic TV, Republic Bharat): The advertiser’s claims “India’s No. 1 News Network” and “18.4 Crore Viewers” / “184 Million Viewers” were misleading. The television promo was not accompanied with any disclaimer to indicate the source of claim. The TV promo was in contravention of BARC advisory as well as ASCI guidelines on disclaimers.
Suo Moto surveillance by ASCI for misleading advertisements
- Al Career Academy: The advertisement’s claims, “Golden opportunity to join Military and Police” and “Join to get guaranteed success”, were not substantiated with supporting evidence of students who were successfully placed in the military and police sector, on completion of their training by the advertiser’s academy.
- Chennai Public School: The advertisement’s claim, “Education National Excellence Awards- Best Educational Initiative”, was inadequately substantiated and is misleading by ambiguity and omission to mention the source for the same. The claim, “World’s Greatest Brands – Asia and GCC by URS and PWC”, was inadequately substantiated, and is misleading by exaggeration and omission to mention the source for the same.
- Lifezen Healthcare Pvt Ltd-Tuskca Calcium : The advertisement’s claim , “India’s No.1 Chewable Calcium”, was not substantiated with comparative data of the advertiser’s product and other similar chewable calcium tablets in India, such as market research survey or third-party validation to prove that it is in leadership position (No.1) than the rest. The source for the claim was not indicated in the print advertisement and the claim was found to be misleading by exaggeration.
- Zydus Wellness- (Sugar Free Green Veda): The advertisement’s claim, “One of a kind Ayurvedic sweet drops” and “Made from stevia leaf which packs the goodness of Ayurveda”, were not substantiated, and are misleading by exaggeration. The advertiser did not provide product specific details such as composition / licence / pack artwork, nor any relevant extracts of Ayurvedic references from Classical Books.
FOOD AND BEVERAGE
- Rasna Private Limited- Rasna Native Haat: The advertisement’s claims “India’s most trusted family-owned brand”, was not substantiated with any market research data, or verifiable comparative data of the advertiser’s brand and other similar juice brands in India to prove their brand is the most trusted brand over others, or through a third party validation. Claim – “World’s largest drink concentrate manufacturer”, was not substantiated with any verifiable comparative data worldwide, to prove that the advertiser is larger than other drink concentrate manufacturers, nor any independent audit or verification certificate. The claims are misleading by gross exaggeration and are likely to lead to grave or widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers.
- Lenovo India Pvt. Ltd IdeaPad 520: The advertisement’s claim, “What’s included in the box – Office H&S 2016” was not substantiated, and is misleading by omission of the conditions to avail this perpetual license.
- AHA Safety Gas India-Aanya Inc: The advertisement’s claim, (in Kannada), as translated in English, “Guarantee that the gas that comes for 30 days can be used up to 40 days”, and “20% savings”, were not substantiated and are misleading by exaggeration.