The next time you see an advertisement making sweeping claims about miraculous properties of a pain relieving oil on the television or come across pills that “guarantee a male child” in newspapers, don't fret as you now have the power to take action against such misleading advertisements.

The Department of Consumer Affairs has signed an MoU with the Advertisement Standards Council of India (ASCI), a voluntary self-regulatory body of Advertisement Industry, to rein in the menace of deceptive ads.

The tie-up may have come in a tad bit late, nevertheless, the self-regulatory body has been working in the direction much effectively.

As per the latest report by the ASCI, last year, in October alone, ASCI’s Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) upheld complaints against 98 out of 162 advertisements. 

Interestingly, out of 98 advertisements against which complaints were upheld, 37 belonged to the Healthcare category, 31 to the Education category, followed by six in the Food & Beverages category, five in Personal Care Category and 19 advertisements from other categories.

In fact, in November 2016, two Members of Parliament (MPs) Jyotiraditya Scindia and Arvind Sawant, sought related information during the winter session and accordingly, the house was informed that in the financial year  2013-2014, 187 misleading television advertisements making false claims were noted.

The following financial year, the number rose to 203 while in 2015-16, 135 such advertisements were taken note of. 

 From April 2015- July 2016 alone, complaints were received against 33 advertisements of Patanjali Ayurved Limited alone appearing on various media including print, electronic etc. out of which, 25 were found to be violating the ASCI code.

Some other complaints which were upheld by the ASCI include big names such as Vodafone, Airtel, Flipkart, GlaxoSmithKline Consumer and Panasonic among others.

Lodging a compliant

As an ordinary citizen anyone can lodge a complaint with the ASCI in more ways than one.  You can simply send them a message or click a picture and Whatsapp it on 7710012345. Besides you can also log on to their website or email them at: [email protected]

Speaking to The Statesman, over the phone from Mumbai, Shweta Purandare, Secretary General, ASCI, said, " We have issued several guidelines for advertising about specific products . Besides, ASCI also takes suo motu action in many cases even if there are no complaints", she added.

However, when asked about advertisements in print and electronic media promoting fairness creams, she said, "Over the last few years, advertisements about skin products and more specifically face creams promising fairer skin, are on the decline. There are no denigrating references to skin tones in most of the advertisements. We still keep a track of such advertisements and do not hesitate in taking action whenever we come across any offensive or over-promising products".