Thursday, December 25, 2014

Is there any remedy to address Misleading Advertisements?

It has always been a trend to mislead the consumers. The company offers attractive schemes which practically do not exist. Some of the misleading advertisements in the recent times have been offering sale of product and services at deferred payment terms without interest, free insurance schemes by Automobile companies, Real Estate, Builders, fairness cremes, speak English fluently, get rid of Wrinkles etc. etc. The consumer also become victims of such advertisements etc. There is a sudden spurge in the recent times about such misleading advertisements as basically the industry is without any regulator despite being billion dollar industry.

However, Advertising Standard Council of India referred as ASCI which seems to be a remedy to address such issues. ASCI is a voluntary self-regulatory organization, registered as a not-for-profit company under section 25 of the Indian Cos. Act. The sponsors of ASCI, who are its principal members, are firms of considerable repute within Industry in India, and comprise Advertisers, Media, Advertising Agencies and other professional /ancillary services connected with advertising practice.

Now the question arises as to why still the misleading advertisements continue to have flourishing  business despite the self regulatory organization. If one visit the site of ASCI, one can find following:

About ASCI: A self regulatory voluntary organization of the Advertising Industry.

Mission: To maintain and enhance the public's confidence in Advertising.

Support to ASCI:  The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), established in 1985, is committed to the cause of Self-Regulation in Advertising, ensuring the protection of the interests of consumers. ASCI was formed with the support of all four sectors connected with Advertising, viz. Advertisers, Advertising Agencies, Media (including Broadcasters and the Press) and others like PR Agencies, Market Research Companies etc. 

1. Normally it takes about 4 to 6 weeks in deciding on the complaint raised by any one and by the time decision comes and by chance the complaint is upheld and advertiser asked to modify the advertisement, the damage has already taken place. Some of the schemes advertised are for limited time and hence those advetisements have already caused damage to the public who have already availed those mislead schemes. 

2. Now if any person has made any complaint against an advertisement, the complaint is decided without hearing the complainant. If the decision is taken in favour of the advertiser without upholding the complaint one can file an appeal and the complainant is asked to remit an amount of Rs.15,000/-. Why should any complainant be asked to pay fee against an advertisement misleading the consumers/public if no satisfactory redressal to the complaint of a public interest and specially when the complainant does not get heard during the process.

3. The Council is supported by the industry like Advertising, viz. Advertisers, Advertising Agencies, Media (including Broadcasters and the Press) and others like PR Agencies, Market Research Companies etc. Why not an independent authority to take an independent decision or the Council itself could be financed by the Govt. so as to overrule the possibilities of biased.

The Council has not found any objection if the 
1. Real Estate /Builder has stated distances in "minutes/hours drives" from certain prominent places without stating the address of the sites/corporate offices.
2. The advertisements of tooth pastes duly endorsed by Doctors in violation of code of Ethics for Medical Professionals.
3. Zero Percent Interest free EMIs as many as 36 months and free insurance schemes for as many as 3 years by automobile companies. 
4. Zero percent interest free EMIs for high value electronic and other domestic appliances misleading the consumers about the prices being same irrespective of whether the purchase is on upfront payment basis or deferred payment basis.

While there have been some of my previous posts on certain misleading advertisements there would be few more posts on such advertisements with analysis as to how the consumer is misleaded.  Such misleading advertisements are not only the misleading but also leading to unfair trade practices (UTP)

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