Mumbai: In March 2017, ASCI’s Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) upheld complaints against 214 out of 280 advertisements. Out of 214 advertisements against which complaints were upheld, 175 belonged to the Healthcare category, 21 to the Education category, followed by 7 in the Food & Beverages category and 11 advertisements from other categories.
The telecom and Broadcasters fall in to the others category and the Consumer Complaints Council pf ASCI has upheld against Airtel’s advertisments assuring Free data for 12 months, Free unlimited local and STD calls and also its claim of being India’s Fastest Network as detailed below:
- Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Free Data for 12 months): The advertisement’s claim, “Free data for 12 months, worth Rs. 9000. Switch to Airtel 4G”, is misleading by ambiguity. It was noted that the price currently being used by Airtel for 3 GB data is Rs. 450/-. The prevalent price of ‘free data’ under an actual offer for 12 months is much lower than the price point of Rs. 9000. The said unlimited data packs are not entirely free but they are subject to specific tariff packs for which the customer is required to pay. Furthermore, the data pack is valid for only 28 days and the 12 re-charges of 28 days each do not add up to 12 months.
- Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Free Unlimited local + STD calls):In view of the cap of 1200 minutes / week as per advertiser’s fair usage policy, the claim, “Free Unlimited Local + STD calls” is misleading and contravened Chapter I.4 of the ASCI Code as well as Clause 1 of ASCI Guidelines for Disclaimers (“A disclaimer can expand or clarify a claim, make qualifications, or resolve ambiguities, to explain the claim in further details, but should not contradict the material claim made or contradict the main message conveyed by the advertiser or change the dictionary meaning of the words used in the claim as received or perceived by a consumer.”).
- Bharti Airtel Ltd.: The advertisement’s claim, “India’s fastest network” after referring to the terms and conditions (https://www.airtel.in/fastestnetwork/download/terms–and–conditions–fastest–network-pdf)and noting the specific clauses,was considered to be in contravention of the ASCI Guidelines on Disclaimers, Clause I, because it renders theprincipal claim of the advertisement being the “Fastest Network” null and void.The specific clauses are – “…..4. Airtel has no liability whatsoever in respect of any claims or disputes and any resulting damages or losses, whether direct or indirect, relating to the customers’ use of the network. 5. Airtel makes no warranties or representations whatsoever in respect of the mobile services including as to its fitness for any particular purpose, merchant ability, quality, availability, disruption or error free operation.Please note that the statements in these terms and conditions do not constitute any general representation from Airtel regarding Airtel’s services or its availability. Airtel’s network is available on an ‘as is where is available’ basis and Airtel makes no representation, guarantee or warranty regarding the availability, fitness for any specified purpose or error free operation of the network. Network availability may be affected due to various reasons including force majeure, acts of god, inclement weather, topographical/ geographic/ demographic factors, maintenance work, availability of interconnection with other networks, etc.”Furthermore, the advertisement does not state in the claim itself that the speed results pertain to only a specific period (ie. “The period taken to conduct speed test is from Q3-Q4 2016”).It was also noted that the claim by the advertiser is not specific to 4G technology whereas the advertisement has visuals with reference to 4G. The speed comparison visual also has a reference to 4G in the notification bar and shows poor signal strength for the other service provider. This representation was considered to be misleading by ambiguity and implication. Further it was concluded that the claim was not adequately substantiated and the basis of comparison has been so chosen as to bestow and artificial advantage to the advertiser. Additionally, for the claim, “Officially the fastest network” it was also considered the term “Officially” to be misleading as this test is not based on any government organization or recognized authority such as TRAI in this category and hence, exploits consumers’ lack of knowledge.