ASCI asks brands to validate pandemic-related claims in ads

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani New Delhi | Updated on October 20, 2020

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has asked companies to ensure that advertisements featuring Covid19-related claims of boosting immunity or preventing coronavirus are substantiated with evidence that is backed by recognised health organisations, regulatory-approved clinical research or recognised medical or technical literature.

The self-regulatory industry body is releasing an advisory on Covid-19 related advertisements to protect consumers from misleading claims as the country grapples with the pandemic.

“Advertisers should be able to substantiate (direct or indirect) claims of immunity against or treatment for Covid-19) supported by either technical support recognised or approved by health authorities such as WHO, ICMR, Health Ministry, Ayush Ministry, DCGI, CDC (USA), or health organisations of similar stature or by well-recognised medical/technical literature or by regulatory-approved clinical research conducted by a recognised medical institute/laboratory,” the advisory stated.

Manisha Kapoor, Secretary General, ASCI, told BusinessLine that the advisory has been formulated after consultation with various technical experts. “ASCI’s code has comprehensive guidelines on misleading ads. Companies are launching new products in response to the evolving needs of consumers during this pandemic. But we want them to ensure that their claims and promises are backed by adequate substantiation to safeguard consumers’ interest,” she added.

Other categories

Even the companies in categories such as home appliances or textiles, have been coming out with products with Covid-19 prevention claims in recent times. ASCI has advised companies that make products that do not come under the ambit of the Drugs & Cosmetics Act (products that are not consumed or applied on human bodies), to be “particularly cautious” with claims about their products having the ability to prevent, boost immunity or provide treatment of Covid-19 in their advertisements.

ASCI has also urged advertisers to avoid claiming destruction or removal of any other virus other than coronavirus in their advertisement as consumers are likely to misinterpret such claims in the current circumstances. “In case advertisers choose to claim removal of any other virus in their advertisement, they should include a disclaimer such as “Claim not applicable to coronavirus (Covid-19)” or a similar message with the disclaimer size and position as per the Disclaimer Guideline of ASCI,” it added. Kapoor pointed that the ASCI’s code prescribes that advertisers should not make claims that distort facts or mislead consumers by implications or omissions and should not exploit consumer trust.

ASCI has also asked brands promoting products in categories such a ayurveda, naturopathy, unani or homeopathy to ensure their advertisements adhere to the order issued in April by the Ministry of Ayush.

Published on October 20, 2020

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