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Brands will now need to ensure awards/ rankings displayed in ads are from credible, independent bodies: ASCI’s new guidelines

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani New Delhi | Updated on January 20, 2020 Published on January 20, 2020

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) on Monday introduced new guidelines for use of awards or rankings in advertisements to ensure consumers are not misled by “superior claims” made on the basis of such awards, by brands.

The advertising watchdog stated that brands and companies will need to ensure that the accrediting bodies involved in presenting such awards or rankings are authentic and credible to validate their claims.

“The guidelines are applicable to all advertisers and would be particularly relevant for healthcare services and educational sector, which tend to use such superiority or leadership claims,” ASCI said. The new guidelines will come into effect from February 1.

According to ASCI’s guidelines, awards or rankings should not be used as an alternative for consumer or scientific research or testing which is needed to substantiate a superiority claim about the effective use or performance of products or services.

“To substantiate the award/ranking claim, the advertiser needs to give an undertaking that there is no commercial relationship or conflict of interest between the awarding organisation/ the research agency/ jury members and the advertiser and that they are two independent entities. To be specific, there should be no direct or indirect payment made by the advertiser to the institution or organisation granting such award,” ASCI stated.

Advertisers will also need to furnish additional details on the process followed by the awarding or ranking organisation for conferring the awards or rankings on the product/service to the Consumer Complaints Council of ASCI, in case a complaint is lodged against such claims.

In a statement, Rohit Gupta, Chairman, ASCI, said, “Claims such as ranking 1st in the state or in India, receiving an award for being the most trusted, or an award of excellence, listed in some book of world records etc. make consumers believe that the product/service is recognised and trustworthy, whereas in some cases this may not be true. The guidelines are a step towards ensuring that advertisers are cognizant of the serious impact of deceptive advertising, and hence, make responsible claims when referring to awards and rankings in their advertisements.”

According to the new ASCI guidelines, brands also cannot extrapolate awards/rankings based on surveys done in one area, such as a city or a state, to include a larger territory, such as India or a continent. Similarly, an award or ranking received for one category or department cannot be used to promote the institution or company in another category.

“Advertisements that refer to awards/rankings should indicate clearly the name of the organisation that has provided the award/ranking and the month and year in which the award/ranking was pronounced. The validity of the award/ranking so used to substantiate a claim should be of a period preceding the advertisement by not more than 12 months. In some cases if the year of the award period is self-explanatory, then such reference to the award being current is not applicable,” the guidelines stated.

Published on January 20, 2020
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