The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has introduced a new initiative, Suspension Pending Investigation (SPI), giving more teeth to the regulatory body. Advertisements which are seen as in serious breach of ASCI’s code, either being gravely obscene, indecent, vulgar or against public interest, will now be required to be withdrawn immediately, pending decision of its Consumer Complaint Council (CCC).
ASCI has recently amended its Articles of Association to provide for ‘Suspension Pending Investigation’. This is in line with the Codes of some of the other SROs such as the Advertising Standards Authority of the UK. The new Article on ‘Suspension Pending Investigation’ states:
“In exceptional circumstances, when it appears prima facie that an advertisement is in serious breach of the Code and it’s continued transmission on/ through/ by any medium causes or has the effect of causing public harm and/or injury or its continuation is against public interest, then ASCI would, pending investigation and decision by CCC, forthwith require the advertiser/ the advertising agency/ the media buying agency and the media concerned to immediately suspend the release of advertisement.
“In the event of suspension of any advertisement in the manner as aforesaid, the CCC shall at the earliest and not later than 30 days from the date of the suspension, adjudicate whether or not the advertisement is in breach of the Code and pass appropriate order accordingly after giving a reasonable opportunity to hear to the advertiser whose advertisement has been suspended. This decision of the suspension is to be taken by the Chairman (or, in his absence, the Vice Chairman) of ASCI, in consultation with two members of the CCC.”
Commenting on this initiative, ASCI Chairman Arvind Sharma said, “Suspension Pending Investing is an important landmark for ASCI. It will ensure immediate action against advertisements that are clearly seen as against public interest. This initiative will go a long way in getting seriously offending ads removed immediately before they cause any damage to the consumers and society in general. We expect the advertising sector consisting of advertisers, ad agencies and media to support this very important initiative wholeheartedly to protect the interests of Indian consumers and general public.”
ASCI has in the recent past taken other initiatives to speed up its decision making process. From monthly meetings of its CCC, it has moved to bi- monthly meetings. This has reduced the average complaint adjudication time from 45 days to 30 days. ASCI has also introduced the Fast Track Complaint Redressal process, which provides decision against intra industry complaints within seven days.