‘Only 12 out of 332 Covid-related ads could substantiate claims’

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on July 27, 2021

Consumers flagged ads ranging from paints and apparel to food supplements promising Covid-related benefits: ASCI

In the pandemic year of FY 2020-21, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) received a large number of complaints from consumers against advertisements with Covid-related claims. Of 332 ads with Covid-related claims examined by the council, only 12 were found to substantiate their claims, according to its annual report.

The ASCI Consumer Complaints Council convened 37 times and processed more than 6,000 complaints in FY 21. “ASCI achieved a 97 per cent compliance rate from advertisers on its recommendations, scoring a strong point for the efficacy of self-regulation,” it said on Monday.

Complaints against 789 ads upheld in January-March period: ASCI

In the first quarter of FY 2020-21, the Ministry of AYUSH issued a directive to clamp down on misleading Ayurveda ads and asked ASCI to identify ads that violated its advisory. ASCI escalated 237 objectionable ads; while 164 ads complied and modified the untrue claims, 73 needed further investigation and action by the Ministry due to non-compliance, it added.

“In addition to this, ASCI picked up advertisements of several other categories such as paints, apparel, detergents, skin care, ACs, fans, water purifiers, plywood and laminates, supplements and food, all promising Covid-related benefits,” it said.

Manisha Kapoor, Secretary General, ASCI said, “In a period where consumer vulnerabilities were at an all-time high, many brands took unfair advantage of this, and tried to peddle their wares without establishing any robust evidence of their actual utility against the SARS-Cov-2 virus. ASCI has worked hard to weed out such advertisements by using very stringent standards of evidence. Brands that offer proven benefits to consumers have a genuine role in the pandemic, but unfortunately most of the Covid-related advertising fell woefully short.”

According to its annual complaints report, the self-regulatory industry body processed 1,406 complaints in the education sector, 285 complaints against food and beverage ads and 147 complaints related to personal care in FY21. In addition, 364 advertisements were found to be, prima facie, in violation of The Drugs and Magic Remedies Act.

Disclosure diktat: Creators have to tell all

In October 2020, ASCI had to come out with an advisory urging advertisers to fully substantiate their Covid-related claims through recognised testing facilities.

ASCI, which looked at 67 complaints related to online real money gaming ads in January-March 2021, released detailed guidelines for the sector. More recently, it brought in influencer advertising guidelines, requiring influencers to label promotional content in their posts.

Published on July 26, 2021

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