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Patanjali gears up to battle ad regulator ASCI

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MUMBAI: Patanjali Ayurveda is about to go head-to-head with The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) - the self regulatory body constituting of advertisers, advertising agencies and media to address misleading and rogue advertising content issues. The Swami Ramdev promoted FMCG company has decided to drag ASCI to court for its ‘high handedness’ and ‘unfairness.’

Reason? ASCI’s Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) has called several advertisements of Patanjali Ayurveda products misleading and unfair, hampering other brands. Patanjali is amongst the biggest advertisers on Indian television.

“The claims in the advertisement (of Patanjali Dugdhamrut) in Hindi as translated into English states “Infertility is increasing in cattle,” “Cattle is being butchered,” “Other companies mix up 3 to 4% urea and other non-edible things in their cattle feed” and “Patanjali Gaushala's cow that gives 25 Liters milk,” were not substantiated and were misleading,” reads one such upheld complaint from ASCI’s Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) report in April.

This decision is something that the top bosses at Patanjali cannot stomach and they see in it a possible conspiracy driven by competitors.

“We feel that these complaints and accusations are an intentional act to mar Patanjali’s name and is part of a conspiracy by certain multinational companies, who have a great deal of influence on ASCI,” shares Patanjali managing director Acharya Balkrishna.

And the brand has secured evidence to substantiate this, that it will present to the court against ASCI. “In order to expose ASCI’s underhanded behaviour for certain brands to the entire nation we want to take this matter to court. We have documental evidence that the complaints against our ads didn’t come from any individual consumer but from certain MNCs that have influence within ASCI.”

It may be noted that several leading FMCG brands are part of ASCI’s member list including Nestle, Mondelez, and P&G.

But suing ASCI wasn’t the first thing that Patanjali had decided upon after receiving the notices. The decision came after the brand failed to secure a satisfactory explanation from the self-regulatory body on each of those complaints. “We had replied to each and every one of the mails from ASCI on account of the complaints, but we got back one liners from them saying ‘We are not satisfied with your response,’ without any further explanation whatsoever,” shares an exasperated Balakrishna.

Citing Justice GS Patel’s ruling in the Teleshop Teleshopping case in the Bombay High Court that declined to recognise ASCI as a regulator, Balakrishna also added, "That particular Bombay High Court order clearly flayed ASCI for its high handedness despite not being a regulator. In fact, it can’t issue notices against brands that aren’t its members. Patanjali isn’t a member of ASCI so we are not answerable to them.” The company is currently abiding by its policies to take up this matter to court in due time.

To put matters into perspective, Balakrishnan reveals that the Patanjali has received at least more than forty such notices from ASCI within the past two to three months. “What is strange is that we have been making those products mentioned in the notices for almost 15 years now, and the ads have been going around for probably 10 years. Where was ASCI all these years?” asks Balakrishna incredulously.

Balakrishna isn’t against an idea of a government regulatory body that monitors all misleading or objectionable advertisements fairly, allowing a level playing field.

Meanwhile, ASCI has remained silent throughout the entire time. Current ASCI chairman Benoy Roychowdhury refused to comment on the issue when indiantelevision.com reached out to him before filing this story.

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