The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has tightened guidelines for disclaimers made in advertisements. The self-regulatory industry body said that the use of disclaimers should be kept at a minimum, clearly readable and remain on screen for more than four seconds in TV or video ads.

According to the ASCI code, suitable disclaimers should be used to explain and support claims made in advertisements by brands. ASCI also outlined guidelines on how they need to be displayed. 

In the past three years, ASCI found nearly 800 ads to be in violation of its disclaimer guidelines.

It has, therefore, made additions to existing guidelines. “The use of disclaimer should be kept to a minimum. Long or otherwise complex disclaimers with large blocks of text and difficult words are a deterrent to viewers attempting to read the contents of the disclaimer. In such cases advertisers should modify the headline claim to reduce the need for further qualification through disclaimers,” it added.

It said brands should ensure disclaimers in TV ads and video commercials on digital media are clearly readable to consumers. “In a single frame in an ad there should not be more than one disclaimer. It should be restricted to full length lines and every line should remain on screen for more than four seconds,” the self-regulatory industry body added.

In cases where due to regulatory requirements disclaimers exceed two lines, additional hold duration should be accounted for, it added. “ For the purpose of calculating the duration of hold of disclaimers, all forms of text appearing on screen at any one point in time should be counted. This includes both disclaimer text and any text content in the main ad creative regardless of where on screen it appears and whether or not it is repeated in audio,” ASCI stated.

Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary-General ASCI, said: “While ASCI has had disclaimer guidelines since 2016, it was observed that over-use of disclaimers made it difficult for consumers to understand all the information presented in the ad. Hence, it is important that claims are crafted in a way that minimises the need for qualificatory disclaimers. Where disclaimers are needed, they should be presented in a manner that someone who is interested in reading them has the opportunity to do so.”

The Consumer Complaints Council (CCC), which looks into complaints filed with ASCI, has also observed that sometimes, the frame of the advertisement that contains the disclaimer was found to very crowded, and distracted the viewer’s focus.