During the month of June 2019, ASCI investigated complaints against 334 advertisements, of which 106 advertisements were promptly withdrawn by the advertisers as soon as they received communication from ASCI. The independent Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) of ASCI upheld complaints against 190 advertisements, out of 228 advertisements evaluated by them. Of these 190 advertisements, 112 belonged to the education sector, 40 belonged to the healthcare sector, 10 to personal care, 7 to the food & beverages sector, 5 to the media / broadcasting sector, 5 from consumer durables and 11 were from the ‘others’ category.
The trend of advertisements featuring celebrities without observing Guidelines for celebrities in Advertising continued. The CCC pulled up a renowned celebrity couple that endorsed an “Antibacterial” paint brand claiming it to be endorsed by the Indian Medical Association (IMA). One of the bestseller water purifier brand featuring a Bollywood superstar claimed to instantly incorporate the benefits of copper in the purified water, equating it with water stored overnight in copper vessels. A well-known celebrity associated with cricket as well as a few cricket players endorsed a detergent product which had a misleading claim of it being consumers’ choice for its product quality. A claim endorsed by a famous cricketer for a gaming app being “India’s Favourite Fantasy Cricket Game” was also not substantiated.
Consumers were quite unhappy about condom advertisements being aired during family viewing hours, violating the advisory by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting that requires such advertisements, not suitable for viewing by children, to adhere to watershed hours. ASCI via its Suo Motu monitoring pulled up over 100 misleading advertisements from the educational sector.
In a recent development, the Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA) renewed their MOU with ASCI, for the fifth consecutive year. Reacting on this update, Shweta Purandare, Secretary General, ASCI, said “We are extremely happy with this development as this reiterates the government’s faith in the work done by ASCI over the years. What ASCI brings to the table is not just the unique expertise in dealing with complaints pertaining to misleading advertisements but also its suo motu capabilities to monitor a huge number of misleading advertisements in Television and print media. ASCI provides a very efficient mechanism for consumers as well as ensures prompt compliance from advertisers, thus reducing the burden on regulators to focus only on persistent violators.”
In another significant development, a recent Delhi court judgement too has re-affirmed the remit of ASCI over non-members. All these developments, including renewal of ASCI’s MoU with DoCA, bode well to ensure “More governance” and for building a strong and cohesive ecosystem in the interest of consumers. ASCI is working closely with DoCA to ensure that this collaboration continues with the formation of the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA).
The advertisements given below were complained against by the general public or by industry members. Of the 79 advertisements complained against, for 21 cases the advertisements were promptly withdrawn by the advertiser on receiving communication from ASCI. For the remaining 58 advertisements, complaints against 21advertisements were upheld by the CCC, five from Media / Broadcasting sector, three each of the Food & Beverages sector, the Education sector, the Healthcare sector, Personal Care sector and four from the ‘Others’ category. 37 advertisements were not considered to be objectionable or in contravention of the ASCI code.
Media / Broadcasting
- TV Today Network Ltd (India Today Television): The ad-mailer’s claim that “India Today Television No. 1 this Election” made a leadership claim under Single Event Reporting. However, the advertiser had chosen the audience segment as M22+A for this event, which as per BARC Guidelines cannot be a single NCCS segment with an age cut. This was viewed as impermissible use of BARC data. The CCC concluded that the headline claim is misleading by implication as the General Elections ran to several phases.
- ARG Outlier Media (R Bharat): The advertisement’s claims, as translated from Hindi “Real No. 1 Channel” and “India’s No.1 Reporter” were not substantiated. The claim is misleading by exaggeration and implication. The sources for the leadership claims were not indicated in the Ad-mailer.
Food and Beverage
- GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Ltd (Horlicks): The CCC observed that in the website advertisement, the advertiser’s slogan “What you eat is not what you get” is juxtaposed with the text – “Horlicks has bioavailable nutrients which get absorbed in the blood and are carried to all parts of the body”. The CCC observed that this statement by the advertiser creates an impression in the consumer’s mind that the advertiser’s product is superior to food because it is bio available. The CCC also noted that juxtaposing “clinically proven” and “bio available nutrients” with other claims made, appears to be misleading because the submitted clinical trial does not unambiguously and fully support these claims. Hence the CCC concluded that advertisers claim of Horlicks having “bioavailable” nutrients” only exaggerates the concept of bioavailability as a gimmick by juxtaposing it with the tagline of “clinically proven” without providing any adequate supporting evidence of the trial of the actual product with reference to the “bioavailability” attribute claimed by the advertiser. The claim contravened ASCI Guidelines on Advertising of Food & Beverages.
- Amway India Enterprises Pvt. Ltd. (Nutrilite Traditional Herbs Range): The print advertisement’s claim “Certified Organic and DNA Fingerprinted herbs with the promise of Purity, Safety and Potency” was considered to be misleading by ambiguity and omission of the reference to the product containing extracts (and not whole herbs). The advertiser is not using the herbs as such in the product but is using their extracts whereas the advertisement headline presents the product range as “Nutrilite Traditional Herbs Range”. The second claim “1 Tulsi Tablet = over 100 dried organic leaves of Tulsi herb” was also not substantiated. The CCC was of the opinion that the word “herb” cannot be used synonymously with the word “extract”.
- NIIT LTD: The advertiser’s claim of “5000 Assured jobs”, is false and misleading by exaggeration, ambiguity and implication. The second claim, “50,000 Students Placed” was not also 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. The advertisement violated the ASCI Guidelines on Disclaimers.
- Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Limited (Revital H Woman): The advertiser’s claim “9/10 women felt energetic after using Revital H Woman” was misleading and inadequately substantiated. The CCC observed that this claim is based on a study done by an independent body, the Home Tester Club. It was noted that while the samples of the test product were couriered to 1000 sample respondents that met the eligibility criteria, there were only 604 members who completed the post-trial survey. The CCC noted that only those with a favourable disposition were allowed to complete the survey. The CCC did not consider the design of the questionnaire to be acceptable or reliable to generate claim support data as only one product was used for the purpose of survey, thus most likely creating bias in favour of the Product in the minds of participants / respondents of the survey. A comparative claim could have been a better approach. Most of the questions were “leading” which would elicit favourable answers for the Product. The advertiser picked only one answer instead of drawing over all conclusion from the data for the claim. This was considered to be distorting the data in order to mislead the consumer by omitting the overall conclusion of the survey.
- Bajaj Consumer Care Ltd. (Bajaj Almond Drops Hair Oil): The product claims to have “300% Vitamin E” as compared to unbranded sweet almond oil, based on independent lab test results. The CCC noted that the test report does not provide any details of the unbranded sweet almond oil. According to the CCC, the comparison should have been a like to like comparison i.e. ideally comparison with another branded almond hair oil which would also provide lesser variability in results and more specifically with other light hair oils. The subject matter of comparison was chosen in such a way so as to confer an artificial advantage upon the advertiser or as to suggest that a better bargain is offered than is truly the case. The CCC concluded that the claim, “300% Vitamin – E” is misleading by ambiguity and implication that the said light hair oil is better than almond oil.
- Mankind Pharma Limited (Manforce Cocktail Condom): The television advertisements aired on multiple channels by the advertiser contravened the the advisory of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting dated December 11, 2017 that such advertisements can only be aired during the watershed hours i.e. post 10:00 p.m. till 6:00 a.m. The CCC observed that the advertisement ought to have been aired during the watershed hours as several intimate scenes between the male and female protagonists were inappropriate for family viewing, especially by children.
- Asian Paints Ltd: The advertiser’s claims “Its anti-bacterial technology kills bacteria that enter the house”, “Kills all bacteria” “Asian Paints – The Anti-Bacterial Paint. Recommended by the Indian Medical Association” featuring celebrities Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone were not adequately substantiated. The source and date of the studies used as the basis of the claims were not included in the disclaimer. The advertisement was misleading by ambiguity regarding the nature of germ kill and omission with respect to the required contact time. The TVC was misleading by implication that The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has endorsed the product, whereas, IMA had permitted the use of their logo for the “Asian Paints Silver Ion Technology” and not for the product as a whole. The advertiser did not provide any evidence showing that the celebrities had done due diligence prior to the endorsement. The advertisement violates ASCI’s Guidelines for Celebrities in Advertising and the ASCI Guidelines on Disclaimers.
- EUREKA FORBES LTD (Dr. Aquaguard NRICH ROs): The advertiser’s claim as translated from Hindi “Aquaguard ki nayi Active Copper technology de paani ko tambe ki shakti, instantly” (Aquaguard’s new Active Copper Technology instantly gives the power of Copper to water) “Tambe ki Shakti, Instantly” (“Power of Copper, Instantly”) featuring celebrity Madhuri Dixit Nene suggests that the product delivers benefits associated with the overnight storage of water in copper vessels, that too instantly. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of Copper for adult men and women is 900 μg/day thus for any potential benefit from the presence of Copper, the total daily water intake should correspond to 15% of the RDA level. However, the advertiser did not intend to associate the claims with any health benefits. Hence it was concluded that the use of the claim “Tambe ki Shakti, Instantly” is misleading by ambiguity and implication that the output water has benefits associated with Copper, since this was not conclusively established by the advertiser. Additionally, there was no evidence showing that the celebrity had done due diligence prior to the endorsement and was found to violate ASCI’s Guidelines for Celebrities in Advertising.
SUO MOTU Surveillance by ASCI FOR MISLEADING ADVERTISEMENTS
The advertisements given below were picked up through ASCI’s Suo Motu surveillance of Print and TV media via the National Advertisement Monitoring Services (NAMS) project. Out of 255 advertisements that were picked, 85 cases were resolved immediately wherein the advertisers confirmed that the advertisements were being withdrawn post receiving the complaints. Of the 170 advertisements examined by the CCC, complaints against 169 advertisements were upheld. Of these 169 advertisements, 109 belonged to the Education sector, 37 advertisements belonged to the Healthcare sector, seven belonged to the Personal Care category, five belonged to Consumer Durables, four belonged to Food & Beverage and seven fell in the “Others” category.
Violation of ASCI’s Guidelines for Celebrities in Advertising.
- Fena (P) Limited (Fena Superwash Powder): The television advertisement’s claim “No.1 choice of millions of consumers” featuring celebrities Preity Zinta, K L Rahul, and Ravichandran Ashwin was not substantiated with verifiable market survey data of the advertiser’s product and other competitor products among representative country wide population, or through a third party validation, to prove that they preferred Fena over other brands in the detergent / bar category. Hence, the voice over claim having reference to the consumers’ choice for the product quality, is misleading.
- Times Internet Limited (CricPlay): The print advertisement’s claim “India’s Favourite Fantasy Cricket Game” featuring sportsman Gautam Gambhir was not adequately substantiated as there was no audited report or third-party validation for the claim. The CCC was of the opinion that star ratings alone are not necessarily a true reflection of a particular app being consumers’ “favourite” or it being preferred over others. Other important parameters such as inclusion of all leading apps across platforms and the actual downloads for each app per platform and whether the apps are paid or free were not provide by the advertiser.
- My Mission: The print advertisement’s claim “Assured success in constable exams” with respect to the courses mentioned, was not substantiated with verifiable supporting data of their students who achieved success in the constable exams. The claim assuring success is misleading.
- Reckitt Benckiser Healthcare India P. Ltd (Ring Guard): The television advertisement’s claim as translated from Tamil “Gives relief from fungus in 7 days” was inadequately substantiated. The said claim when seen in conjunction with the visual of a “ring worm on the hand disappearing completely in 7 days”, implying cure, is misleading by gross exaggeration and implication. The advertiser acknowledges that the product only provides a symptomatic relief from “symptoms” of fungal infection. The CCC observed that as per visual presentation of the advertisement, a consumer is likely to interpret the claim that the product cures fungal infection. The TVC further shows the father, who is afflicted by fungal infection carrying the baby while the corresponding super refers to relief in seven days. Fungal clearance requires much longer treatment and portraying that the product cures fungal infection in seven days is encouraging an unsafe practice especially for a contagious condition.
- Medlife International Private Limited – Medlife: The print advertisement’s claim, “India’s No.1 E-Pharmacy” was not conclusively proven with any verifiable comparative data. It was observed that the advertiser relies on the report by Frost & Sullivan on E-Pharmacy in India – An Exponential, to substantiate its claims. However the source of information in this report is the advertiser’s own blog, hence the report cannot reasonably be accepted as sufficient substantiation. The advertiser market share needed to be independently verified and other players shares like Netmeds, 1MG, Pharmeasy, Myra, CareOnGo and Pharmasafe have to be similarly assessed to ensure that no player has a larger share than the advertiser.
- 1MG Technologies Private Limited (1mg.com): The print advertisement’s claim “India’s Largest Healthcare platform” was not conclusively proven and is misleading by exaggeration and implication. The source for the claim was not indicated in the advertisement.
- Hindustan Unilever Ltd (Men’s Fair & Lovely): The television advertisement’s voice over claim as translated from Hindi, “Real instant fairness in just ten seconds after applying” was misleading by ambiguity and implication. The CCC observed that the “Instant fairness” benefit being referred to by the advertiser pertained to only a “fairer look” due to “coverage” properties of the product ingredient. The product is not capable of changing the skin’s inherent complexion instantly and hence use of the “instant fairness” terminology itself is ambiguous and misleading. The CCC was of the view that the word “asli” (real) means actual complexion. Choice of such terminology to show a cosmetic effect was incorrect.
- Lotus Herbals Ltd (Lotus Sports Sunscreen): The television advertisement’s claim “SPF 100”, was inadequately substantiated. The advertiser did not provide any product specific information such as copy of Product approval license, product label, and Product composition details nor any scientific or technical rationale for the product claim. As per excerpt of the test report, the product was tested for in-vitro sun protection factor analysis and determination of PA rating as per COLIPA 2011 method. The CCC considered this claim support data to be inadequate and was of the opinion that the SPF values were based on in vitro test and the same benefit was not conclusively proven for in-vivo situation.
- Bajaj Electricals Ltd (Bajaj Ceiling Fans): The television advertisement’s claim as translated from Marathi “India’s first anti germ fan that gives protection against 99.2 percent germs and dust” was inadequately substantiated. The CCC noted that the advertiser’s response and the test report was not exhaustive enough to explain the anti-germ substance used on fan, its concentration, for how many days/months/years this activity is maintained by the fan, contact time required for efficacy and impact of in-room variables on germ kill effect. The claim and the voice over, “India’s first fan with anti-germ technology which gets rid of germs and dust”, implies complete removal of dust and all type of germs, which are misleading by exaggeration.
Food and Beverage:
- Rasna Private Limited (Rasna Insta Energy): The television advertisement’s claim “Compared to other energy drink Rasna Insta has real fruit powder”, was not substantiated with verifiable comparative data of the advertiser’s product as compared to all other energy drinks on the real fruit powder content and is misleading. In the advertisement the ASCI Guidelines on Disclaimers were also violated as the disclaimer was not in the same language as the voice over.
- Sumix Baby Wear & Care: The television advertisement’s claim as translated from Malayalam “Made from 100% comp cotton gives relief from allergy” was misleading as the advertiser did not provide any substantiation for their product providing relief from allergy. It was observed that that while cotton clothing helps the skin breathe easily and is comfortable for a person suffering from allergy, it does not provide freedom from / cure to the allergy.