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NEED FOR ADVERTISEMENT CODE IN INDIA

INTRODUCTION

Advertisement is a medium for the promotion of products and brands. Advertisements may be paid or unpaid. Some of the producers hire advertising agencies for the advertisements. Advertisers aim to promote their products to a growing consumer marketplace and in turn increase their sales. This increase in sales revenue helps in the economic development of our country. Not only this, it aids consumers to get the desired product. In other words, advertisement is a link between the producer and consumer. Today most of the products we use or the services we take are due to the influence of advertisement. Our day starts with the advertised product called toothbrush and ends at the advertised hotel. Every single product we use today is a part of an advertisement.  Before the evolution of media, the internet; newspaper and radio used to be the important medium of advertisement. But are these advertisements always true? 

MISLEADING ADVERTISEMENTS

Advertisement plays an important part in everyone’s life. Sometimes advertisements can also be used to make awareness concerning public interest. It can be used to make consumers aware of the existence of their product. However, these advertisements are not always true. Sometimes advertisers make false claims to persuade the consumer to buy a particular product. Examples include a cream claiming for fair skin tone, soap advertisements claiming to kill viruses and bacteria, a lottery or cash rewards advertisements, and job advertisements. In 2015, it was found that Volkswagen was misleading the consumers that its cars are environmentally friendly and are of low emissions. Another false claim was made by New Balance in 2011, that their sneakers can burn calories. Eclipse Gum has misled consumers about having germ-killing properties in their product. Regarding advertising an 8-poll survey was conducted by  LocalCircles in more than 220 districts.[1] In this survey, they received 67,000 votes. From this survey, it was found that  3% of consumers have a high-level trust in advertisements, 25% have an average level of trust in advertisements, 48% have low trust and almost 23% have zero trust in the ads. It was discovered that 28% of consumers had trust in the advertisement campaigns. Also, it was discovered that among the most misleading ads, consumers find cosmetic products, real estate, and e-commerce sites followed by healthcare apps, and financial services. Whereas around 76% of participants want a restriction on surrogate advertisements.[2] Countries like the United Kingdom have made it mandatory for the broadcaster to hold documentary evidence as proof against objectionable claims.[3]

INDIA’S ACTION ON FALSE ADVERTISEMENT CLAIMS

In India, a Code for Self-Regulation in Advertising called The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) was established in 1985. ASCI is a voluntary and self-regulatory body.  It is formed for the protection of consumer interest and advertisers. It aims to enhance consumer trust in advertising. ASCI ensures that the advertisements are truthful and honest to consumers, non-offensive to public decency, are not against harmful products, and not derogatory and fair in competition. This Code is divided into IV chapters. Along with this, it has guidelines for specific category advertisements based on the product category. It also laid down the proper complaint procedure. In addition to the normal procedure that ASCI has in addressing complaints that are received, a fast-track procedure has also been put in place for expeditious resolution of intra-industry, and inter-member complaints.[4] In addition to this, the Government of India has enacted an Act called The Cable Television Networks Regulation Act,[5] to regulate the operations of cable television. Section 6 of this Act no person shall transmit or re-transmit an advertisement that is not in conformity with the Code. 

IS ASCI EFFECTIVE?

In the case of “Common Cause (A Regd Society) v Union of India and Ors”, the Supreme court observed that the ASCI is effective in its function.[6] In the months of June and July, The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) investigated complaints against 363 advertisements. While the Independent Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) of ASCI had looked into 287 complaints from the remaining complaints.[7] In the months of October and December, ASCI has investigated around 1,885 complaints. In total, it evaluated 6,527 complaints in the year 2020.[8] Looking at this data, we can come to the point that the ASCI is effective against false claims and misleading advertisements.

CONCLUSION

Advertisement is a medium for the promotion of products. Sometimes these advertisements make false claims and misguide the consumers. Advertisers usually make these claims to increase their sales revenue. To address this issue we have an ad-regulating body named The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI). ASCI has investigated various complaints against the advertisers. Even the Supreme Court of India found ASCI to be effective in its operation. The Government of India has enacted The Cable Television Networks Regulation Act, to regulate the operations of cable television. Section 6 of this Act does not permit a person to transmit advertisements that are not in conformity with the code. However, in my opinion, India should have a separate codified law for the regulation of advertisements and addressing misleading false claims. Also, frequent surveys must be taken from consumers to take effective actions.

Author(s) Name: Nidhi Rao (University of Mumbai, School of Law, Thane)

 Reference(s):

[1] ‘18 false advertising scandals that cost some brands millions’(Business Insider, 26 July 2021) < https://www.businessinsider.in/advertising/18-false-advertising-scandals-that-cost-some-brands-millions/slidelist/51630710.cms#slideid=51630711> accessed on 25 June 2022

[2] Shambhavi Anand, ’India to formulate advertising code’ (The Economic Times, 26 June 2022) < https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/services/advertising/india-to-formulate-advertising-code/articleshow/76638538.cms> accessed on 25 June 2022

[3] Dipak K Dash, ‘To curb misleading ads, Centre studying codes of NZ, UK, US’ (Times of India, 24 Aug 2020)
  < https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/to-curb-misleading-ads-centre-studying-codes-of-nz-uk-us/articleshow/77711611.cms >accessed on 25 June 2022

[4] ASCI Code, < https://iprmentlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/ASCI-Code.pdf> accessed on 25 June 2022

[5] Cable Television Networks Regulation Act,1995

[6] ZeeBiz Web Team, ‘Supreme Court recognises ASCI’s self-regulatory mechanism for advertising’( Zee Business, 6 February 2017) < https://www.zeebiz.com/companies/news-supreme-court-recognises-ascis-self-regulatory-mechanism-for-advertising-12150> accessed on 25 June 2022

[7] BrandWagon Online, ‘ASCI looks into 363 objectionable advertisements in June July’ (Financial Express, 30 Sept 2020) <https://www.financialexpress.com/brandwagon/asci-looks-into-363-objectionable-advertisements-in-june-july/2094933/> accessed on 25 June 2022

[8] Saumya Tewari, ‘ASCI upholds over 2,000 misleading ads in 2020’ (Mint, 10 March 2021)  <https://www.livemint.com/industry/advertising/asci-upholds-over-2-000-misleading-ads-in-2020-11615376158316.html> accessed on 25 June 2022