1000+ complaints of misleading ads on DoCA portal in 2015-16

NEW DELHI: A total of 1046 complaints have been received in the past one year between March 2015 and 31 March 2016 on the portal Grievances Against Misleading Advertisements (GAMA) set up by the Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA).

After preliminary scrutiny of the grievances registered on the portal, the grievances are forwarded to the state government concerned or the respective central regulator as the case may be.

Of these, complaints relating to 363 were successfully resolved, 234 were rejected, 41 are in process with the Advertising Standards Council of India and 391 have been given to the regulator to intervene. In addition, 17 have been given to the Inter-Ministerial Monitoring Committee of the (DoCA).

The DoCA last year appointed the Advertising Standards Council of India as its executive arm to process complaints received on the GAMA (Grievance against Misleading Advertisements) portal.

The Inter-Ministerial Monitoring Committee which is headed by Additional Secretary in DoCA consists of members from Bureau of India Standards; the Information & Broadcasting, and Health Ministries; Press Council of India; ASCI; Food Safety and Standards Authority of India; Centre for Consumer Studies (Indian Institute of Public Administration); two representatives on rotation basis from NGOs/VCOs and Industrial/ Business/ Trade Bodies and Central Consumer Protection Council etc.  

DoCA sources who told that a large number of misleading advertisements appear in various media, said the Consumer Protection Act 1986 is being amended for which the Consumer Protection Bill 2015 has been introduced in Lok Sabha. The Bill seeks to provide for a Central Consumer Protection Authority, the objective of which is to protect and enforce the rights of the consumers, to prevent unfair trade practices and to ensure that no advertisement is made for any goods or services which is misleading or deceiving or contravenes the provisions of the Act and rules made thereunder

Section 2 (1) (r) of the existing Act provides that the practice of making any statement, whether orally or in writing or by visible representation which falsely represents that the goods are of a particular standard, quality, quantity, grade, composition style or model; falsely represents that the services are of a particular standard, quality or grade, falls under unfair trade practices.

A consumer can make a complaint against unfair trade practice in a Consumer Forum established under the Act. If the complaint is upheld by a Consumer Forum, it can order for removal of the defect pointed out, replacing the goods with new goods free from any defect, issuance of corrective advertisement to neutralize the effect of misleading advertisement at the cost of the opposite party responsible for issuing such misleading dvertisement, etc.

Meanwhile, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry received six complaints in 2013 and 2014 and none in 2015 or the current year until April against private satellite television channels.

In most cases, I and B sources said the matter was referred to ASCI which had the advertisements removed while in two cases the Ministry gave a general directive to all channels.

All advertisements telecast on TV channels are regulated in accordance with the Advertising Code available on Ministry’s website Rule 7 (5) of the Advertising Code provides that no advertisement shall contain references which are likely to lead the public to infer that the product advertised or any of its ingredients has some special or miraculous or super-natural property or quality, which is difficult of being proved.

The I and B Ministry had constituted an Inter Ministerial Committee (IMC) under the chairmanship of the Additional Secretary and comprising of officers drawn from various ministries such as Consumer Affairs, Home Affairs, Law & Justice, Women & Child Development, Health & Family Welfare, External Affairs, Defence and including a representative from the ASCI, to take cognizance sou-motu or look into specific complaints regarding violation of the Programme Code and Advertising Code. The IMC functions in a recommendatory capacity.

The final decision regarding penalties and its quantum is taken on the basis of the recommendations of IMC. The Ministry generally issues warnings or advisories to comply with the Programme/Advertising Codes or asks the channels to scroll apologies on their channel. Occasionally, the channels are also taken off air either temporarily for a limited period depending on the gravity of the violation. A list showing details of action taken against TV channels for telecasting advertisements in violation of Rule 7(5) regarding misleading advertisements is at Annexure-II.

Meanwhile, the ASCI received a total of 525 complaints against misleading advertising content on the electronic media between 2013 and 2016. Rule 7(9) of the Advertising Code provides that no Advertisement which violates the Code for self-regulation in advertising, as adopted by the ASCI Mumbai for public exhibition in India, from time to time, shall be carried in the cable service.

While 187 complaints were received in 2013-2014, the number went up to 203 in 2014-2015 but fell to 135 in 2015-2016.

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