The immediate push for regulation has come from the Madhya Pradesh High Court. The court asked the consumer affairs ministry to set up an ad-monitoring panel as recommended by the Vibha Bhargava Commission. The commission had submitted its report in 2005 and it underlined the urgent need to regulate false claims by advertisers of different products.
Apparently, misleading advertising is most rampant in the education sector and the healthcare and personal care space, accounting for more than half the total number of advertisements found to have flouted the compliance norms and code of conduct of the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI). In July 2013, ASCI’s Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) upheld complaints against 177 ads, of a total of 201 complained against. Most of the misleading ads were from the education sector and the promise of 100 per cent job placements was one of the recurring unsubstantiated claims, ASCI declared. This was followed by health and personal care, where most of the complaints upheld were against ads found to be misleading, or making false or unsubstantiated claims.
Some examples: The CCC concluded that the claims mentioned in L’Oreal India's advertisements for its products Garnier Pure Active Neem Face Wash and Garnier Naturals Hair Colors were not substantiated by proper research. Garnier Pure Active Neem Face Wash had claimed that it was ‘enriched with real Neem’ and was 'the first ever face wash that removes pimples and marks'. Garnier Naturals Hair Colors claimed ‘Naya Garnier colour natural ab aur bhi behtar, Trust only the No. 1', with the disclaimer saying ‘based on urban retail data’.
Hindustan Unilever was pulled up for the unsubstantiated claims for its ads for Brooke Bond Red Label, which claimed it is a ‘Healthy tea that improves blood circulation’, and for Pond’s Age Miracle which claimed ‘Look up to 10 years younger’, with the disclaimer in small print saying ‘with regular use’.
Complaint against Audi India was upheld for its advertisement claiming ‘Audi Q3 at a down payment of Rs 600,000 and 84 EMIs of Rs 38,000 only for onroad price (with registration and insurance)’. The fine print below indicated that ‘This is a bullet scheme’, ‘Offer valid only on June 22 and June 23, 2013’.
The advertising watchdog also upheld complaints against Tata Teleservices, which claimed ‘Unlimited 3G data for Rs 250’. The ad was misleading as the disclaimer mentioned that ‘3G data would be up to 1 GB only’.