ASCI processes complaints against 415 advertisements; 373 regarding misleading claims

The most common reason for upholding complaints were unsubstantiated and exaggerated claims that exploit consumers’ lack of knowledge

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In December 2018 and January 2019, ASCI investigated complaints against 415 advertisements, of which the advertisers ensured corrective action for 125 advertisements as soon as they received the complaints from ASCI. ASCI’s Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) upheld complaints against 230 advertisements from a total of 290 advertisements evaluated by them. Of these 230 advertisements, 106 belonged to the education sector, 61 to the healthcare sector, 32 to the food & beverages sector, Nine to personal care, and 22 were from the ‘others’ category.

Among several advertisements that were examined, the CCC observed that in two separate cases renowned cricketers were endorsing liquor brands that did not meet the ASCI Guidelines for Qualification of Brand Extension of Product or Service. Additionally, a famous Bollywood celebrity was seen endorsing two face cream product variants of the same brand, both made absolute claims of removal of skin marks which were unsubstantiated and hence misleading. Advertisements for two hair oil brands featuring celebrities were also considered misleading. Claims regarding mosquito repellent product by a famous Bollywood celebrity and claims regarding an online pharmacy endorsed by a cricketer were considered to be unsubstantiated. These advertisements were in violation of ASCI Guidelines on Celebrities in Advertising.

A significant number of complaints looked into by the CCC pertained to the Education sector arising out of Suo Motu surveillance activity by ASCI followed by Healthcare products and services. The most common reason for upholding complaints were unsubstantiated and exaggerated claims that exploit consumers’ lack of knowledge.

D. Shivakumar, Chairman, ASCI said, “Being a self-regulatory organisation in advertising, ASCI’s efforts have always been towards protecting the interest of consumers. In order to create mass consumer awareness about objectionable advertisements, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) issued an advisory for a scroller to be carried by all TV broadcasters in support of self-regulation for grievance against objectionable advertisements that refers to ASCI. With more and more TV channels carrying the ASCI WhatsApp number 77100 12345 in a scroller, there has been over a tenfold increase in consumers reaching out to ASCI.”

EDUCATION: - Total of 106 advertisements complained against

  • Direct Complaints (15 advertisements) 
  • Suo Moto Surveillance by ASCI (91 advertisements)

HEALTHCARE: - Total of 61 advertisements complained against

  • Direct Complaints (Six advertisements)
  • Suo Moto Surveillance by ASCI (55 advertisements)

FOOD AND BEVERAGES: - Total of 32 advertisements complained against

  • Direct Complaints (17 advertisements)
  • Suo Moto Surveillance by ASCI (15 advertisements)

PERSONAL CARE: - Total of Nine advertisements complained against

  • Direct Complaints (Eight advertisements)
  • Suo Moto Surveillance by ASCI (One advertisement)

OTHERS: - Total of 22 advertisements complained against

  • Direct Complaints (13 advertisements)
  • Suo Moto Surveillance by ASCI (Nine advertisements)

DIRECT COMPLAINTS:

The advertisements given below were complained against by the general public or by industry members. Of the 155 advertisements, 34 cases were informally resolved, meaning the advertisements were voluntarily withdrawn by the advertisers immediately post receiving the complaints. Complaints against 59 advertisements were upheld by the CCC. Of these 59 advertisements, 17 belonged to the Food & Beverages sector, 15 belonged to the Education sector, eight belonged to Personal Care sector, six belonged to Healthcare sector and 13 to the ‘Others’ category.

The following advertisements were in violation of ASCI’s Guidelines for Celebrities in Advertising. The advertisers did not provide any evidence to show that the celebrities did due diligence prior to lending their name to the endorsements, to ensure that all description, claims and comparisons made in the advertisement are capable of substantiation:

Allied Blenders and Distillers Pvt Ltd (Officers Choice Blue Snacks): In two advertisements, celebrity MS Dhoni was seen endorsing surrogate advertisements for the promotion of a liquor product – Officer’s Choice Blue. The advertisements are misleading by implication and contravened Chapters I.1, I.4 and III.6 (b) of the ASCI Code. Furthermore, the advertisements did not meet the requirements of the ASCI Guidelines for Qualification of Brand Extension Product or Service and thereby contravened Chapter III.6 (a) of the ASCI Code.

United Spirits Ltd (Royal Challenge Sports Drink): In the advertisement, famed cricketer Virat Kohli was seen pulling the emergency chain in a train. When the train stops, he says it is a bold move to pull the emergency chain. The advertisement is a surrogate advertisement for promotion of liquor product - Royal Challenge whisky. The advertisement is misleading by implication as it did not meet the requirements as per ASCI's Guidelines for Qualification of Brand Extension of Product or Service and thereby contravened Chapter III.6 (a) of the ASCI Code. The advertiser also did not submit any testimonials or evidence of celebrity’s consent for the claims.

Bajaj Corp Ltd (Bajaj Nomarks Ayurvedic Antimarks Cream): The advertisement’s claim, “No Nishaan” is an absolute claim and implies that the product delivers such results which will leave no mark on the skin under any condition irrespective of individual skin type, which was not substantiated as the study results did not support complete removal of marks. Additionally, the product claim of being “New” was not justified since it was only a change in packaging graphics and the disclaimer was also not on the same front panel, thus the product pack claim of “New” is misleading by ambiguity and implication. Additionally, the advertisement featuring celebrity Taapsee Pannu was found to violate the ASCI Guidelines for Celebrities in Advertising.

Bajaj Corp Ltd (Bajaj Nomarks Ayurvedic Antimarks Cream): The front panel of the product pack claims “NEW” but the disclaimer added on the back of the pack reads, i.e. “New Pack Graphics”, which is a violation of ASCI Guidelines for Disclaimers. The advertisement featuring celebrity Taapsee Pannu was also found to violate the ASCI Guidelines for Celebrities in Advertising.

Marico Ltd (Hair and Care Fruit Oil): The advertisement’s claim, “Hair & Care Fruit Oil has nutrition of Olive and Vitamin E oil”, was inadequately substantiated and was misleading by implication as the Advertiser did not provide any evidence showing some measure of nutrition provided by the ingredients. The advertisement featuring celebrity Shraddha Kapoor was also found to violate the ASCI Guidelines for Celebrities in Advertising.

Dabur India Ltd (Dabur Amla Hair Oil): The advertisement’s claim “Asli Amla, Dabur Amla” was considered to be misleading by implication. Additionally, the advertisement makes reference to a green bottled ‘sadharan amla’ oil and claimed two times superiority compared to Nihar Shanti amla. Phrases like “Sasta amla, wo to sirf man ko shanti dene ke liye theek hai” are crafted to directly refer to “Shanti Amla” and an intent to point to “Shanti Amla”. Hence, the references to “Sasta Amla” and “Mann ki shanti” are misleading by implication. Reference to “Dugne majboot balon ke liye”, shows a hair roller dropping with hair breakage, this was not substantiated and the tests showed that the hair was not two times stronger. The advertisement also featured celebrity Kareena Kapoor Khan and violated the ASCI Guidelines for Celebrities in Advertising.

Mamaearth: The advertisement’s claim, “Jo mosquito repellent aapke baby ke liye istamal kar rahe hai, who machhar se jyada baby ke liye hanikarak hai”, was inadequately substantiated, and is misleading by implication, and unfairly denigrated the category of mosquito repellents. The claims, “Mamaearth’s Natural Mosquito Repellent, jo aapke baby ko de 100% Natural protection”, and “100% protection indoor as well as outdoor” were inadequately substantiated, and are misleading by ambiguity and implication. The advertisement with celebrity, Shilpa Shetty Kundra, was also found to violate the ASCI Guidelines for Celebrity in Advertising; the visual of the celebrity, when seen in conjunction with the above claims, is likely to mislead consumers regarding the product efficacy.

Netmeds Marketplace Limited: The advertisement’s claim, “The pharmacy with over 100 years of experience” was misleading and is likely to lead to a grave or widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers. The claim, “Trusted by three million+ Indians”, was not substantiated with any market survey data or with an independent third-party validation. The advertisement featuring celebrity MS Dhoni was also found to violate the ASCI Guidelines for Celebrities in Advertising. It was concluded that the visual of the celebrity, when seen in conjunction with the claims, is likely to mislead consumers.

Food and Beverage

The CCC found claims of the following 15 advertisements in Food and Beverage products or services to be either misleading or not adequately/ scientifically substantiated; hence in violation of the ASCI Code. In few cases the advertiser did not provide copy of product label and Product composition details nor any data of the product that demonstrated the claimed benefits and in several cases, it was observed that the advertisements exploit consumers’ lack of knowledge and are likely to lead to grave disappointment in the minds of consumers.

Complaints against the following advertisements were upheld:

Jolly Healthcare (Jolly Organic Green Tea): The advertisement’s claims, “Improving Brain Function More Efficiently and Smartly”, “Helps in burning fat which increases the physical performance by approximately 12-13%.”, and “Lowers the risk of cancer”, were not substantiated with scientific rationale and/or evidence of product efficacy, and are misleading by exaggeration.

Jolly Healthcare (Jolly Organic Green Tea): The advertisement’s claims, “Lowers down the risk of old age problems”, “Lowers down the risk of diabetes”, and “Lowers down the risk of obesity”, were not substantiated with scientific rationale and / or clinical evidence of product efficacy, and are misleading by exaggeration.

Jolly Healthcare (Jolly Organic Green Tea): The advertisement’s claims, “Prevents heart disease”, “Increases the longevity of life”, and “Increases immunity”, were not substantiated with scientific rationale and/or clinical evidence of product efficacy, and are misleading by exaggeration.

Duncan Tea Ltd. (Double Diamond Green Tea Bags): The advertisement’s claims, “Ideal weight loss supplement” and “Protects skin from sun damage and slows down aging process”, were not substantiated with scientific rationale and/or clinical evidence of product efficacy and are misleading by exaggeration.

Duncan Tea Ltd. (Double Diamond Green Tea Bags): The advertisement’s claims, “Treat everything from headache to depression”, “Increase energy level and mental alertness”, and “Inhibits growth of cancer cells and kills the cancer cells”, were not substantiated with scientific rationale and/or clinical evidence of product efficacy, and are misleading by exaggeration.

Duncan Tea Ltd. (Double Diamond Green Tea Bags): The advertisement’s claims, “Favourable effect on hypertension, LLD Cholesterol and blood sugar”, “Inhibits abnormal formation of blood clots”, and “Prevents tooth decay”, were not substantiated with scientific rationale and/or clinical evidence of product efficacy, and are misleading by exaggeration.

Kalm Foods LLP (Organic MATCHA Green Tea): The advertisement’s claim, “Lowers Cholesterol”, was not substantiated with scientific rationale and/or clinical evidence of product efficacy. The claim, “137X the antioxidants of normal green tea”, was not substantiated with supporting data. Both the claims were is misleading by exaggeration.

Kalm Foods LLP (Organic MATCHA Green Tea): The advertisement’s claim, “Improves memory and concentration”, “Promotes calm mind”, and “Boosts immune system”, were not substantiated with scientific rationale and/or clinical evidence of product efficacy, and are misleading by exaggeration.

Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd (Amul Milk): The advertisement’s claim “Fresh Har Pal”, was not substantiated, and is misleading by ambiguity. During the CCC, it was noted that the shelf life of pasteurised milk is limited and claiming it to be fresh always is misleading. The CCC also observed that the FSSAI regulations on Advertising and Claims also refer to such claims.

Planet Ayurveda (Detox Tea): The advertisement’s claims, “Prevents hair loss and premature greying of hair”, “Prevents wrinkles on the skin”, and “Clears clogged arteries and prevents further hardening of the arteries”, were not substantiated with scientific rationale and/or clinical evidence of product efficacy, and are misleading by exaggeration.

Planet Ayurveda (Detox Tea): The advertisement’s claims, “Prevents Ageing”, “This wonderful detox tea is rich in natural herbs which are very effective in cleansing the system and preventing tissue damage”, and “Regular consumption of this wonderful tasty herbal tea gives healthier skin, healthier internal organs”, were not substantiated with scientific rationale and / or evidence of product efficacy, and are misleading by exaggeration.

Istore Direct Trading LLP. (Urban Platter Gluten-Free Rolled Oats): The advertisement’s claim, “GlutenFree”, was not substantiated with any test report for the product and hence is misleading. The product packaging and the website advertisement contravened Chapters I.1 and I.4 of the ASCI Code.

United Oil Industries (Swarnam Gingelly Oil): The advertisement’s claim, “Only brand which has passed the GLC (Gas Liquid Chromatography) test”, was not substantiated with comparative technical data/test results for the advertiser’s product and other Sesame oil brands, to show that other oils do not pass the GLC test. The claim, “Omega 3 rich oil which is healthy for Skin and Blood pressure”, was not substantiated with scientific rationale, or clinical evidence for the advertised product.

Dhunseri Tea & Industries Limited: The advertisement’s claim, “Rajasthan's most favourite tasty and strong tea”, implies that this product is preferred over all other tea brands, for which the advertiser did not provide any substantiation. The claim, “Completely safe and healthy tea for children”, was not substantiated, is a misrepresentation of facts. The claim, as well as depiction of young children shown in the advertisement, is misleading.

Allied Blenders and Distillers Pvt. Ltd (Sterling Reserve Music CDs): The advertisement depicting the Sterling Reserve brand name is a surrogate advertisement for promotion of liquor product – Sterling Reserve whiskey. The advertiser did not provide in-store availability of the product which must be at least 10% of the leading brand in the category of the product. The advertisement contravened ASCI's Guidelines for Qualification of Brand Extension of Product or Service.

The CCC found claims in the advertisements by following 6 advertisers to be unsubstantiated and likely to lead to a grave or widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers. 

Personal Care

MARICO LTD - Nihar Naturals Shanti Amla Hair Oil: The advertisement’s claim “Zamana badal gaya hai aur aamla tel bhi” implies that the advertised product has changed in terms of formulation. The claim was misleading by ambiguity and implication.

R. G Marketing Pvt Ltd (Qraa Gold Illuminating Face Wash): The advertisement’s claims, “Nourished with the nectar of natural honey and gold dust, this face wash makes skin fresh, radiant and gives illuminating complexion”, “Enriched with Mulberry extracts, it provides an even skin tone and deep cleanses the pores leaving skin fresh and tingling”, and “The rich formula washes away tan and protects it from dryness”, specifying benefits, were not substantiated with product efficacy data and are misleading by exaggeration.

R. G Marketing Pvt Ltd (Qraa Underarm Cream): The advertisement’s claims, “Qraa Under Arm Whitening cream is the only product in current market that instead of hiding the darkness of underarms by leaving a white patch, treats the cause of darkness by reducing melanin from there”, “Its natural ingredients, Licorice extracts, and Witch Hazel, reduce melanin production and soothes skin irritation to reveal fairer, whiter underarms”, “It has high quality natural herbal extracts that are proven to reduce rashes, mild pimples and dark spots from your underarm” and “Visible results can be seen within 10 days* of use”, were not substantiated, and are misleading. Moreover, the advertiser did not provide product composition details or relevant extracts of Ayurveda / herbal references for the ingredients with their prescribed benefits as per Ayurveda / herbal texts.

Iba Halal Care (Iba Hair Color): The advertisement’s claim “The only hair colour which takes care of your hair” did not provide evidence of the ingredients present in the product, nor any comparative data of the advertiser’s product with other hair colour products, to prove that except their product, all the other products lead to hair damage. Additionally, in the claim “Keeps hair strong”, the advertiser did not submit any scientific rationale for the claimed benefit, nor did the advertiser provide any product efficacy data specific to the benefits attributable to ingredients responsible for strengthening the hair.

Eli Pharmaceuticals/ Mediaid Healthcare Pvt. Ltd (Melas Alfa Cream): In the advertisement, the advertiser made assertions regarding their Melas Cream and Lotion product which are cosmetic by classification and did not submit any authentic and credible evidence of its production volume and sale. The CCC noticed that Melas Alfa Cream has certain ingredients (Mometasone, Tretinoin, Hydroquinone combination) due to which the said product is prohibited from advertising The advertisement was a surrogate advertisement for promotion of a product Melas Alfa Cream and is misleading by implication. Furthermore, the advertisement did not meet the requirements as per ASCI's Guidelines for Qualification of Brand Extension of Product or Service and thereby contravened Chapter, III.6 (a) of the ASCI Code.

G.K. Burman Herbal (India) Private Limited (Himgange): The advertisement’s claim, “Made from precious herbs of Himalaya”, was not substantiated and is misleading by exaggeration as the advertiser did not provide product specific details such as composition/licence/pack artwork or samples, nor evidence of the ingredients being sourced from the Himalayas.

Healthcare

Johnson & Johnson Private Limited (Benadryl): The advertisement’s claim, “50 Years Doctor’s Trust” and Voice over the claim, “Pachchaas saaloon se doctoron ka bharosa”, was inadequately substantiated and is misleading by ambiguity. The survey relied upon for the claim was conducted in the year 2012, moreover, the interviewed doctors had less than 20 years of clinical experience.

Dr. Wellmans Homoeopathic Laboratory India Pvt. Limited (Arnica Hair Oil): The advertisement’s claims, “Prevents hair fall and increases hair growth” and “It gives cooling to the brain and better sleep”, were not substantiated with product efficacy data and are misleading.

Mohak Bariatrics and Robotics: The advertisement’s claim “But now with advanced treatments like Bariatric and Robotic Surgeries, obese people can lead a normal life”, was not substantiated with supporting clinical evidence as the advertiser did not provide clinical or scientific data to prove that treatment through bariatric surgery helps obese people lead normal lives even if they revert to their pre-surgery lifestyle. The claim, “As per international guidelines all those who have uncontrolled diabetes, despite all medical measures and have a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 28, can undergo this treatment”, was not substantiated with any published literature references.

Others

The CCC found most of the claims in the following 12 advertisements that were not substantiated, misleading by exaggeration and were likely to lead to grave or widespread disappointment in the minds of consumers.

Make my trip India Private LTD (Make My Trip): The advertisement’s claim, “Zero cancellation offer” on hotel bookings under Makemytrip.com, was misleading by omission of a qualifier that the offer is subject to terms and conditions. In the TVC, the claim offer, “Zero cancellation charge on Hotel Bookings” was qualified via disclaimer to mention that T&C apply, however the position of the above disclaimer was not correctly placed in the advertisement, and contravened Clause IV of the ASCI Guidelines for Disclaimers.

Pitambari Products Private Limited (Pitambari Dish wash Bar): In the website advertisement of Pitambari Dish wash Bar displayed “new” on the image of the image of the current pack offered for sale. On the advertisers YouTube channel the packaging in the commercial dated 2016 is the same as the website there is no visible change in the packaging. The advertiser also did not submit any evidence of the current product (on the website) being “New”. The claim contravened ASCI Guidelines on Validity & Duration of Claiming New / Improved.

ACC Limited (ACC Gold Water Shield): The advertisement’s claims, “Desh ka ekmatra cement jo ghar ko rakhe seelan se door”, and “Paani ki no entry”, were not substantiated, and are misleading by exaggeration. The advertiser did not provide technical data to prove that their water-repellent cement acts as a shield against water seepage. The advertiser also did not submit any verifiable comparative data of the advertiser’s product and other cement brands in India to prove that their product is the only one to have water repellent properties.

Keystone Realtors Pvt. Ltd (Rustomjee): The advertisement’s claim, “Kids who do better at school, solving problems and facing challenges have one important thing in common: Time with Dad”, is presented as a statement of fact which was not backed with any research data to prove that only children spending personal time with their fathers are good at school, and are able to solve their own problems. The said claim when seen in conjunction with a picture of a father and two kids on a seesaw slide implies that mothers / single mothers are not able to take proper care of kids, or that kids do not enjoy the company of their mothers. Hence, the claim was not substantiated and is misleading by implication.

Nextra Teleservices Pvt Ltd. (Nextraworld): The advertisement’s claim, “Speed 200 Megabits per second at exciting price of Rs 599”, was misleading and not substantiated as the advertiser did not provide any evidence of customers being offered the service.

Live (in) Pride (Live in Pride Underwear): In the advertisement, a young couple is shown getting intimate and they have to scramble when the girl’s parents arrive. The boy manages to run but leaves behind his underwear. The girl’s father deploys his dog to sniff the underwear left behind and then sniff the underwear of other boys too. The advertisement was considered to be repulsive and vulgar, which in the light of generally prevailing standards of decency is likely to cause grave and widespread offence.

Add Pens Private Limited (Add Achiever Gel Pen): The advertisement’s claim, “The world’s finest gel pen” was not substantiated with comparative data of the advertiser’s product and other gel pens of leading market players worldwide, for their product to be the finest, and is misleading by exaggeration and implication. The claim, “Non-dry now up to two years”, was not substantiated with supporting evidence that the ink of the advertiser’s gel pen has non-drying properties of up to two years, and is misleading by exaggeration. 8. RSPL Limited (Xpert Hygenic Dishwash Bar): The advertisement’s claim, “Five dino ka galan test percentage - maatra 28 percent galan hui (for expert) – 73 percent galan (for blurred product image implying Exo dishwash bar)”, was not substantiated, and unfairly denigrates the other product. The advertiser did not provide any explanation with regard to the details of the products being referred to in their communication nor any comparative data of tests conducted on their product and those of competition.

Furniture Garage: The advertisement’s claim, “India's Largest Sofa Manufacturer now in Ahmedabad”, was not substantiated with any verifiable comparative data of the advertiser’s manufacturing capacity with that of other sofa manufacturers in India, to prove that they are larger than the rest, or through a third party validation, and is misleading by exaggeration.

Independent TV Limited: The advertisement’s claims, “Off 500 free to air channels”, “Free Education channels for children”, and up to 500 FTA channels”, were not substantiated with supporting evidence, and are misleading by exaggeration.

ARG Outlier Media (Republic TV): The advertisement’s claim, “Desh Ka Number one channel,” was misleading by omission as the CCC noted that Republic TV is not Desh Ka No.1 channel, it is the leader only within the narrow confines of the English News genre. The advertisement also contravened BARC Guidelines of Fair & Permissible Usage, and Chapters I.2, I.3 and I.4 of the ASCI Code.

Ashoka News: The advertisement’s claim, “Ashoka News is India's Fastest News App, was not substantiated with verifiable comparative data or any market survey data, or a third party validation.

SUO MOTO Surveillance by ASCI

The advertisements given below were picked up through ASCI’s Suo Moto surveillance of Print and TV media via the National Advertisement Monitoring Services (NAMS) project. Out of 263 advertisements that were picked, 91 cases were informally resolved meaning the advertisements were voluntarily withdrawn by the advertisers immediately post receiving the complaints. Of the 264 advertisements, complaints against 171 advertisements were upheld. Of these 171 advertisements, 91 belonged to the Education sector, 55 advertisements belonged to the Healthcare sector, 15 belonged to the Food & Beverages sector, one to Personal care and nine belonged to the ‘Others’ category.

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