Govt intent on code to discipline advertisers

NEW DELHI: The government appears to be heading for a confrontation with the advertising fraternity following the insistence of the Consumer Affairs Ministry to draw up a Code with penal powers to deal with the issue of misleading advertisements.

The Ministry is already holding discussions with the core Ministry - Information and Broadcasting - and with the Health Ministry in this connection.
The Advertising Standards Council of India (Asci) has already met officials in the I&B Ministry to point out that it has a comprehensive Code in this regard being enforced on a self-regulation basis.

The I&B Ministry is understood to have said that the steps taken by it are adequate and the Consumer Affairs Ministry should ensure that its nominee also takes part in the meetings of the inter-ministerial committee which normally goes into such complaints.

Asci sources told today that it had apprised the Consumer Affairs Ministry of the work being done by it for 26 years and the fact that the I&B Ministry had been appreciative of their work. The sources also said Consumer Affairs Minister KV Thomas was assured that the Asci could work in cooperation with his Ministry, and could receive complaints from this Ministry in the manner it was already doing from the I&B Ministry.
But Thomas told representatives of Asci who met him recently that this was not enough and he wanted a legal regulatory system.

Officials of the Consumer Affairs Ministry told the Asci that the framework would be meant to only deal with "unscrupulous manufacturers" as they only resort to "dubious advertisements".

The Ministry had got into action following a directive from the Prime Minister‘s office after Manmohan Singh received several complaints of exaggerated product claims especially in ads touting anti-ageing creams, fairness creams, weight-loss programmes, and of vitamins or dietary supplements that may even harm consumers.

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