Make ASCI membership compulsory: CII white paper

03 Oct,2012

By A Correspondent


The CII National Committee on Marketing has released a white paper on “Self-Regulation in Advertising in India – A critical Evaluation”. The paper identifies key concerns regarding misleading advertisements and analyses the issues. It also critically evaluates the role and responsibilities of all stakeholders – regulators, industry, activists and consumers. The paper further suggests that the solution to the problems posed by misleading advertisements is not to add one more legislation in the form of an Administrative Authority as proposed by Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), and only in cases of non-compliance of Consumer Complaints Council’s (CCC) decisions should the matter be referred to any other regulatory body.


Adi Godrej, President, CII, said, “This white paper reinforces that self regulation in advertising works, as seen in over 70 countries already. In India too, we believe in the efficacy of ASCI to regulate misleading advertising and more importantly its ability for speedy redressal. We urge the Department of Consumer Affairs to reconsider its recent proposal to set up a parallel administrative authority, which we strongly feel will delay the process of consumer redressal and be counter-productive to its intent. Instead, we request them to consider partnering with and strengthening the current mechanism of self regulation through ASCI further, a win-win for consumers, industry and the government.”


The CII advocated that given the Advertising Standards Council of India’s (ASCI) track record in self-regulation of ad content, co-regulation between ASCI and regulators like DCA, Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), Ministry of Information & Broadcasting etc. as an effective solution. Co-regulation will ensure that ASCI and the government work together with all stakeholders to enforce compliance currently vested with ASCI but without any punitive powers. However, the paper suggested following areas of improvements of ASCI:


  • Mandatory membership of ASCI. Membership of ASCI be made compulsory for all industry players with exposure to advertising industry in India – the media vehicles, the advertisers and advertising agencies. For instance, rules in Holland require all organizations releasing ads on TV and Radio to be member of its SRO.
  • Integrate ASCI Code into statutory provisions: Sub rule (9) of rule 7 having Advertising Code of the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994 prohibits TV channels from carrying any advertisement that is in violation of the ASCI Code. Similar provisions may be introduced in other statutes like Press Council of India’s Advertising Code to ensure that advertisements while in conformity with the statutory provisions also adheres to the ASCI Code.
  • Expand coverage of ASCI code to digital and social media: A strong digital outreach programme is required to monitor digital and home shopping networks including outdoor advertising and mobile advertising. Large digital companies like Google, YouTube, and Twitter must join as members and compulsorily sign on to ASCI code.
  • Suspension pending investigation: This is one of the major concerns, and therefore control is required on account of advertising with sexual overtones, religious underpinning, and delivery of magical remedies/promotions in the mushrooming Indian advertising industry. To stop airing such advertisements a special fast track process which involves temporary suspension of an advertisement, which prima facie causes harm to the society, pending final decision by CCC can be implemented.
  • Co-regulation between ASCI and DCA as an effective solution instead of a new legislation. The committee has drawn a parallel with the successful model of Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in UK, which does not possess any punitive powers but co-regulates with the government bodies to ensure smooth control over the misleading advertisements in that market.


Thomas Varghese, Chairman, CII National Committee on Marketing 2012-13 and CEO, Textile Business, Aditya Birla Group advocated self-regulation in advertising. While he maintained that awareness about ASCI is low, Nandini Chopra, Partner and Head – FDCG, KPMG India, said, “ASCI is moving from reactive phase to proactive phase. Of course, lack of punitive powers and insufficient awareness needs to be tackled but with a lean budget that ASCI has, the proposed road would make for conducive eco-system.” She also pointed out that 60% of complaints come from competition, which helps in keeping the industry honest and self-regulated.


Sam Balsara, past Chairman, ASCI and MD, Madison World said, “Everyone knows and understands that advertising is an engine of growth and economy. It is up to the industry to increase the confidence of consumers in advertising. Even as the white paper mildly criticises ASCI, we welcome it. We at ASCI will be looking at all these suggestions. We are also setting up machinery to screen the ads ourselves, before we get complaints,” he added.



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