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Airtel does not agree with ASCI's 'conclusion' on misleading ad

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MUMBAI: The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has given a statement in favour of Reliance Jio and has asked Airtel to stop the ads that were misleading for several reasons. Bharti Airtel however does not agree with ASCI’s decision and will file an appeal as per guidelines. It said its campaign is based on the findings by Ookla – the globally recognised leader in mobile speed tests and also a benchmark for reputed global operators.

Reliance Jio has been in a tug-of-war with incumbent telecom operators with its launch of Jio 4G services in India. Regardless of the quality of the service or the speeds, which has always been a debatable topic, Jio is on the forefront, and other operators are trying to catch up with it. Jio sent a legal notice to Ookla for what it calls wrongly calling Airtel as the leader of speed.

Jio's complaint to ASCI was considered by the Fast Track Complaints Committee (FTCC) on 29 March 2017. The FTCC referred to the terms and conditions (https://www.airtel.in/fastestnetwork/download/terms-and-conditions-faste...) and noted that some clauses were considered to be in contravention of the ASCI Guidelines.

Airtel TVC does not state in the claim itself that the speed results pertain to only a specific period. (i.e. The period taken to conduct speed test is from Q3-Q4 2016”). The FTCC noted that the claim by the advertiser is not specific to 4G technology whereas the TVC has 4G visuals. The FTCC considered this representation to be misleading by ambiguity and implication. While the advertiser submitted an Ookla certificate, they did not provide an explicit test methodology to substantiate that the method is robust to capture that the sample; and is representative and comparable across operators, geographies and consumers.

The FTCC referred to the TRAI web site with respect to the coverage of Jio vis-a-vis Airtel and noticed that there is a significant gap between geographical dispersion of Airtel and Jio 4G subscribers which could impact the comparison. Based on this data, the FTCC concluded that the claim was not adequately substantiated and the basis of comparison has been so chosen as to bestow artificial advantage to the advertiser.

FTCC has legally ordered Airtel to either appropriately modify or withdraw the advertisement completely by 11 April 2017.

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