Telecom, e-commerce, and banking are three sectors which are seeing an increase in misleading and false advertisements. Shweta Purandare, Secretary General, Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), said to exchange4media that there has been a steady increase in complaints against ads from these three sectors. “An increase in objectionable advertisements is an outcome of these sectors booming,” she said.
According to ASCI’s year end compilation of complaints, the industry watchdog in saw an emergence of complaints against advertisements in the telecom sector (58) in 2014-2015. In 2015-2017 ASCI received 72 complaints against ads in the telecom sector, 54 complaints against ads from the e-commerce sector, and 24 complaints against ads from the banking sector. According to Purandare, even though the number of complaints in the banking sector is small for now, the sector is witnessing a steady increase in complaints.
ASCI’s in its latest round of reviews for the month of February upheld complaints against Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, Snapdeal, Amazon, and Flipkart amongst others.
With every telecom company claiming to offer the fastest or best data connectivity with contradicting or no data to back the claims, telecom majors - Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, and Jio - have all been pulled up on multiple occasions in the last few months by ASCI for airing misleading advertisements.
Recently, Airtel and Jio have been warring over the “fastest network” claim. Earlier this year ASCI upheld a complaint against an advertisement for Reliance Jio for its claim, “Best 4G Network with lowest data rates globally.” ASCI found the ad to be misleading by ambiguity and implication of it being among the best in the world. Following that, based on a complaint from Reliance Jio, an ASCI fast track committee had asked Airtel to modify its advertisement claiming to have the fastest telecom network in the country
In its latest round of reviews, ASCI upheld three complaints against Airtel’s advertisement. One of the ads claimed to offer “Free Calls Local +STD Saath mein payen Internet Data.” ASCI found that the claim was not substantiated, and was misleading. Also the claim, “Fastest 4G Network” was inadequately substantiated, ASCI stated. The self-regulatory body found that the subject matter of comparison was chosen in such a way as to confer an artificial advantage upon the advertiser. “There is likelihood of the consumer being misled as a result of the comparison,” ASCI stated.
Similarly, a BSNL ad claiming to offer “most affordable tariffs” and “fastest broadband”, were not substantiated with comparative data vis-à-vis other similar service providers in the same category, and are misleading by exaggeration.
An Idea Cellular advertisement’s claim, “Idea Cellular is available in over 4 lakh towns and villages across India,” was found to be misleading by ambiguity and implication that Idea 4G services are available in most parts of rural and urban India.
A Snapdeal ads for Samsung J2 Pro claiming to have a “Quad-core snapdragon 821 processor” is false and misleading, ASCI found. Snapdeal stated that there was an inadvertent error made in the print advertisement. However, there was no error in product description of the said product on the online platform. Another Snapdeal ad for a price claim of “Rs.199 less Discount 85% off”, is false and misleading, ASCI noted.
An Amazon ad for Micromax 32T7260 HDI LED TV claiming “You can also watch your favourite content by connecting your TV to smartphone, using MHL (Mobile Hi-Definition link) and Bluetooth technology”, was found to be false and misleading as the product model delivered to the complainant did not have the features as claimed in the advertisement, ASCI said.
A Flipkart ad for Lois Caron LCS- 4162 was found to be false and misleading as the product model delivered to the complainant did not match with the visual displayed and did not have the “Quartz” reference.
In total ASCI upheld complaints against 242 out of 305 advertisements in February. Of the 242 advertisements against which complaints were upheld, 165 belonged to the Healthcare category, 31 to the Education category, followed by 19 in the Food & Beverages category, 9 in Personal Care Category, and 18 advertisements from other categories.