The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) now delivers its Consumer Complaints Council’s (CCC) decision on a complaint against an objectionable advertisement within a span of on an average 12 days from the date the complaint is received.
With the public and regulators demanding that ads which are a) misleading or make false claims, b) indecent , c) showing hazardous activities, and d) unfair to competition should be promptly removed or modified, ASCI has taken effective action to reduce the complaint processing turnaround time from 45 days two years back to just 12 days on an average currently.
Some of the actions taken by ASCI to achieve this turnaround time are:
• From monthly meetings two years ago, the CCC now meets weekly by having two CCCs instead of one earlier and total number of CCC members moving up from 21 to 28.
• The turnaround time taken at ASCI to process the complaint and time provided to the advertiser to respond to the complaint has been significantly reduced with the use of email and technology.
• Intra industry complaints among ASCI members are being resolved in just seven days via a Fast Track Complaint (FTC) process, which was introduced in 2012. FTC, which handled 30 complaints in 2013-14, has been very popular among ASCI members, who are seeing real time and cost savings by not taking the matter to the courts on intra industry ad content disputes.
• In the recent past, ASCI also introduced ‘Suspension Pending Investigation’ (SPI), by which ASCI can order an extremely objectionable ad to be removed immediately, pending investigation and decision of the CCC.
Under its National Advertising Monitoring Service (NAMS), ASCI has also started tracking in print and on TV, all ads against which complaints have been upheld. And results show that over 90 per cent of such “upheld complaints” ads do not reappear or are appropriately modified. ASCI has now started reporting non-compliant upheld ads (that is, upheld ads which reappear) to regulatory authorities such as the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB), the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), the Medical Council of India (MCI), the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and the Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) for taking action as per the law of the land.
The faster complaint turnaround time and improved compliance upheld complaint decisions by ASCI has taken place at the same time, when the number of complained ads processed by ASCI has increased more than 10 times. In 2011-12, the number ads processed by ASCI were 176, which post the NAMS initiative in 2012-13 increased to 784 and for April 2013 to February 2014 period (11 months), ASCI has handled complaints against 1,833 ads.
Commenting on these developments, Partha Rakshit, Chairman, ASCIsaid, “ASCI’s effectiveness and credibility as an advertising self-regulatory organisation has increased several fold with speedier redressal of complaints and high compliance of its CCC’s decisions by advertisers. Regulatory bodies such as MIB, DCA, FSSAI, and FDA now recognise and support our self-regulation work with the inclusion of the ASCI in the Inter-Ministerial Monitoring Committee formed to review misleading ad content.”