The advertising watchdog Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) on Tuesday warned advertisers not to use the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to mislead consumers. ASCI is keeping tabs on unsubstantiated and opportunistic claims done by brands.
The regulatory body has asked the public to inform it about any misleading claims through WhatsApp on the number 7710012345 so that action can be taken promptly against such advertisers.
Shweta Purandare, Secretary-General, ASCI said, “Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic situation, there is widespread anxiety, confusion, and fear amongst the public at large. ASCI is monitoring advertisements that are making unsubstantiated and opportunistic claims. We have issued notices to advertisers for immediate suspension of such advertisements pending investigation. ASCI’s active Social Media listening, as well as the availability of the WhatsApp number 7710012345 during the lockdown period, have been key in enabling ASCI to act swiftly.”
During the month of December 2019, ASCI investigated complaints against 310 advertisements, of which 77 advertisements were promptly withdrawn by the advertisers on receipt of communication from ASCI. 33 complaints were received directly from individuals while other 277 advertisements were picked by ASCI itself by Suo Moto surveillance.
The independent Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) of ASCI evaluated 233 remaining advertisements of which complaints against 225 advertisements were upheld. Out of these upheld complaints, 124 belonged to the education sector, 66 belonged to the healthcare sector, 7 to the food & beverages sector, 6 to personal care and 22 were from ‘other’ categories.
TTK Healthcare‘s advertisement claiming “Virginity can be cured” was considered to be in bad taste and implies as if “virginity” is a disease, thereby insulting virgin boys or girls. The second claim from the company “Pheromone Activating Spray” was also found to be misleading.
Advertisement about Vaseline Body Lotion from Hindustan Unilever Limited displayed a person climbing on the roof of a bus with passengers. ASCI found that this was neither a stunt nor spoof from any movie, it concluded that this TVC is showing dangerous practices and manifests a disregard for safety.
Colgate Zig Zag Toothbrush’s claim of “Toothbrush Brand Used & Recommended by Dentists” was not substantiated and the advertiser assured that it will discontinue this claim from all of its packages.
Ecommerce website Myntra’s advertisement about a coupon code that was supposed to provide a discount had not been substantiated with evidence of any of their consumers having availed the offer and Myntra also didn’t carry any qualifiers regards terms and conditions.
Similarly, the claim of MakeMyTrip about gift vouchers was not substantiated, in addition to this, the terms and conditions were not mentioned clearly. MakeMyTrip was providing different gift cards of smaller value to some customers, they were also not able to provide any proof that the offer was claimed by any user.
Divisa Herbal Care (Eye Mantra Eye Drops) claimed to “Give you sharp and clear vision” which was not substantiated. The advertiser failed to give product efficacy data or robust clinical study to prove that the product improves vision.
Jeevan Jyoti Hospital in a print advertisement claimed “Cancer Prevention, Treatment and Palliative Care” which was not substantiated. The advertiser hasn’t submitted any authentic and verifiable data like details of the treatment procedure for the claimed diseases, nor any details regarding the medicines being used, and their approval status by the regulatory authorities.