In May 2020, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) investigated complaints against 251 advertisements, of which 23 were promptly withdrawn by advertisers. ASCI acted against 222 advertisements on a suo motu basis and its Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) upheld 209 cases.
Of the complaints, other than those against the withdrawn advertisements, the CCC evaluated 228 advertisements. Complaints against 221 were upheld. Of these, 162 belonged to the healthcare sector, 47 to education, 1 to food and beverages, 1 to personal care, and 10 to other categories.
We have highlighted a few brands and their false claims that mislead consumers.
Hindustan Unilever Ltd (BRU Instant):
The Television & YouTube Advertisement’s claim, “Tea won’t give you that much energy” qualified with, “Creative Visualization. The use of 100 milk is recommended for making coffee. As per our recommended protocol, more milk in coffee gives more energy.” was not substantiated. The claim unfairly discredits tea, as an entire category. The CCC disagreed with the disclaimer stating that the product effect being depicted is a “creative visualization” as it is clearly a product performance claim. The depiction in the advertisement is actually a day to day ordinary situation at home and the action of running up the stairs and picking up suitcases is not really a creative hyperbole – it appears to be a realistic depiction of product effectiveness. Moreover, as per the disclaimer, the benefit of energy enhancement was attributed to the higher content of milk. Additionally, neither caffeine nor milk is likely to give this kind of enhanced energy.
Suzuki Motorcycle India Pvt. Ltd. (Suzuki Access 125):
The TVC and YouTube advertisement’s claim “Now with BS6 Technology, Kam Peeta Hai” is misleading by exaggeration, implication, and omission. The Consumer Complaints Council Review (CCC-R) panel, did not agree with the advertiser’s contention that “Kam peeta hai” is a subjective statement to the effect that their product was effective. In fact, the advertiser themselves state that the “advertisement makes a subjective claim that the advertised product is fuel-efficient, which when translated into Hindi, using zany humor translates to “kam peeta hai” – which is also in general public parlance, a common way of addressing mileage of an automobile”.
Kia Motors India Private Limited (Kia Seltos):
The TVC and the YouTube advertisement is depicting a young girl practicing football. From her demeanor, she appears to have a mean streak in her. She deliberately chooses various objects like the garbage bin, painting on the wall, a bell, a gate post and doors, and mirrors of cars as target practice, which is either public or private property. She then decides to aim at a parked Kia Seltos but gets startled when the car makes a noise. Getting discouraged, the girl moves away. The advertisement ends with a voiceover, “No one messes with a badass.” The CCC did not agree with the advertiser’s argument that the visuals shown in the advertisement were a slice of life or that they were stunts.
Colgate-Palmolive (India) Ltd (Colgate Swarna Vedshakti):
The print advertisement’s claims, “A Pure mouth means a healthy you”, “Imagine this funnel is your mouth. See what happens when it’s unclean? The germs can enter your body. And when your body is not healthy, there could be a higher risk for all kinds of diseases. Like diabetes, heart disease, respiratory problems, and what not” and “But if you brush with Colgate Vedshakti every day, the germs are destroyed in the mouth itself. So, they can’t enter your body, and you can stay healthy” were inadequately substantiated, distort facts, and are misleading by ambiguity, omission, and exaggeration. For the claim, “A Pure mouth means a healthy you”, the CCC did not agree with the advertiser’s contention that a “pure mouth” signifies the importance of a clean and hygienic mouth.
Fastrack 24H Weightloss Centre:
The television advertisement’s claim “Capital Dehradun’s only center where women’s dream of reducing weight is fulfilled, which gives result in one month” was not substantiated with any data of they being able to provide results of the magnitude as claimed in the advertisement in one month for each of their customers. The second claim “Maximum Weight Loss 64 kgs (11 months)” was not substantiated with supporting evidence. The advertiser did not provide details of their weight reduction program nor any weight loss data based on robust controlled studies to prove that majority of their customers have achieved significant weight loss (of about 64 kgs in 11 months). The claim implies that such a degree of weight loss is feasible for every customer regardless of their health condition. Furthermore, efficacy being depicted via images of before and after the treatment by showing weight reduction is misleading by gross exaggeration.
Vodafone Idea Limited (Vodafone REDX):
The website and hoarding advertisements claims, “Up to 50% faster data speeds” and “unlimited data” and the absence of a disclaimer for the comparative claim was considered misleading. The CCC observed that customers can be preferentially served using differential QoS (Quality of Service) implementation algorithms on packet-switched networks, like the current 4G deployments. Moreover, LTE networks provide the additional possibility of physical layer resource blocks partitioning as well. So, a 50% improvement on data speed for a set of users, or a figure several times more than this value, is possible once the provider implements such a customer classification algorithm. The CCC observed that in the initial data provided by the advertiser some infrastructure augmentation in the form of a network merger is alluded to, but it seems to cater to most of the existing customers in those networks.
These were some of the campaigns and brands that ASCI acted upon. ASCI is definitely committed to the cause of self-regulation in advertising ensuring the protection of the interest of consumers.