Another ASCI in the making? PMO wants regulator for misleading ads

17 Sep,2011

By A Correspondent

 

The government is working on framing rules for the advertisement industry to check misleading advertisements such as those promising strength, looks and sharper memory, following a directive from the Prime Minister’s Office.

The PMO has directed the consumer affairs department to prepare a draft regulatory framework within a month, a government official said on condition of anonymity.

A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting Prime Minister Mr Manmohan Singh’s principal secretary Mr T K A Nair held with top ministry officials. “The ministry will put in place this regulatory framework in a year’s time,” the person said.

This is for the first time that the government has taken up the issue of misleading advertisements ranging from an actor jumping off a cliff unhurt after drinking a particular beverage to a soap or cream making one look younger and fairer to a drink that enhances one’s memory.

At present, the country does not have a legal framework to protect consumers from such misleading ads.

The industry, however, has a self-regulatory body, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), which advertising professionals say is extremely effective.

“We don’t know about the details of the new proposal, but the ASCI is doing a great job in any case. I’m not sure if two bodies are required to regulate advertising,” said Mr Colvyn Harris, CEO of JWT, India’s largest ad agency that manages the creatives of beverage maker PepsiCo and telecom services provider Bharti Airtel.

ASCI Secretary General Mr Alan Collaco said, “We have a code for self-regulation for advertising and a robust consumer complaints council in place. This has been working very well for the past 26 years.”

The council takes actions against advertisements, which are considered false, misleading, indecent, illegal, leading to unsafe practices, or unfair to competition, but it does not have any legal backing.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India too is in the process of rolling out a set of guidelines defining an exhaustive code of self-regulation in all advertising of foods and beverages, to be implemented by the health ministry. It has been talking to the advertising council to work jointly on the guidelines.

Industry insiders say that these guidelines will wipe out misleading claims in food and drink advertisement including health benefits. “Celebrities and prominent people who promote food should recognize their responsibility towards society and not promote food in such a way so as to undermine a healthy diet,” reads a clause of the proposed guidelines.

While various jurisdictions around the world have specific guidelines and codes to dictate minimum standards for food ads, most of these codes are self-regulatory. In many world markets, companies such as Unilever, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, Kraft Foods and General Mills have come together under the EU Pledge to self-regulate responsible advertising.

 

Source:The Economic Times

Copyright © 2011, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved

 

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